US senator asks FBI, FTC to probe Russia’s FaceApp that alters users’ photos

FaceApp is displayed on an iPhone. The popular app is under fire for privacy concerns. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Updated 18 July 2019

US senator asks FBI, FTC to probe Russia’s FaceApp that alters users’ photos

  • Chuck Schumer says the mobile software app could pose security risks
  • FaceApp has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties.

WASHINGTON: US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a national security and privacy investigation into Russia-based FaceApp, whose mobile software application alters users’ photos, in a letter sent on Wednesday.
FaceApp’s artificial intelligence application for editing photos requires users to provide it with “full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data,” which could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of US citizens,” Schumer said in his letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joe Simons.
Schumer posted the letter on his Twitter account.
Users’ photos can be edited to make a user look older or younger or to change their gender, he said.
“FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of US citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments, ” Schumer said in the letter.
It is not clear how the artificial intelligence application retains the data of users or how users may ensure the deletion of their data after usage, Schumer said.
Schumer said the photo editing app’s location in Russia raises questions about how FaceApp lets third parties, including foreign governments, have access to the data of American citizens.
In a statement cited by media outlets, FaceApp has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties.
“99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person,” the company said in a statement cited by TechCrunch, adding that most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of the upload date.
While the company’s research and development team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia, according to the statement.
FaceApp’s website says it has over 80 million active users. FaceApp’s website promotes the app by saying: “Transform your face using Artificial Intelligence with just one tap,” showing photos with changes in users’ appearances.


Google enters battle for cloud gaming market

Updated 17 November 2019

Google enters battle for cloud gaming market

SAN FRANCISCO, California: Ever-expanding Google becomes a gaming company Tuesday with the launch of its Stadia cloud service that lets people play console-quality video games on a web browser or smartphone.
The Internet giant hopes to break into the global video game industry expected to top $150 billion this year, with cloud technology that could broaden audiences attracted by rich new features as well as ease of access with no more need for consoles.
But analysts say Stadia’s outlook is uncertain as its faces rivals such as PlayStation Now in an emerging and highly-competitive market.
Stadia plays into a trend in which content — ranging from blockbuster films to work projects — lives in the cloud and is accessible from any device.
“All of these new services are merely pointing out that we don’t need sophisticated hardware in the home to access entertainment,” said Wedbush Securities equity research managing director Michael Pachter.
Google last month sold out of “Founder’s Edition” kits, which are priced at $129.
Each kit contains a Stadia controller and a pendant-shaped Chromecast Ultra wireless connection device that plugs into television sets.
Stadia games are playable using Google Chrome web browser software on computers.
It also works with Google-made Pixel smartphones from the second-generation onward, and on televisions.
Stadia Pro subscriptions, priced at $10 a month in the US, will be available in 14 countries in North America and Europe.

'Underwhelming'
However, analysts say Stadia could wind up as another “bet” that Google walks away from if it fails to live up to expectations.
“Stadia will live or die by its content,” said Ovum senior analyst George Jijiashvili.
“The announced 12 launch titles are underwhelming.”
Subscribers will be able to buy games that will be hosted at Google data-centers, but some free games will be available to subscribers, starting with “Destiny 2: The Collection.”
Stadia on smartphones will work with WiFi connections rather than rely on mobile telecom services.
Being able to play without lags or interruptions is paramount to gamers, and flawed Internet connections could cause frustration. Internet speed will also determine how rich in-game graphics can be.
Some promised features such as integration with YouTube will not be in place at launch.
“Stadia appears to be rushed out the door before fully ready and, worryingly, Google is risking falling short on its promises,” Jijiashvili said.
“These shortcomings however would be easily overlooked if Google can deliver a very reliable and high-quality game streaming service.”
Google appears committed to doing just that, according to Ubisoft senior vice president of partnerships Chris Early.
The French video game giant has been working with Google and its games are among titles coming to the service.
“From what I have seen, their plans are too deep; they are too good, and they are too invested,” Early said. “They are not calling it quits any time soon.”
He expects a long launch period during which Google will beef up Stadia.
“If there is a one-day problem at launch, it isn’t the end of the world; it isn’t even close,” he said, stressing the potential for Stadia to let people play without investing in consoles.
But Pachter questioned whether subscriptions were the right approach.
“The right model is pay as you go or pay for the game and play unlimited without a subscription,” Pachter said.
“Amazon will try one of those and will win the streaming wars.”
Amazon has game studios but no online game service.

Project xCloud
US technology veteran Microsoft has been testing a Project xCloud online game platform.
“Next year, we’ll bring Project xCloud to Windows PCs, and are collaborating with a broad set of partners to make game streaming available on other devices as well,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kareem Choudhry said in an online post.
Sony Interactive Entertainment last month slashed the price of its PlayStation Now cloud video game service by about half in the US to $10 monthly.
Japan-based Sony also boosted the library of games that PlayStation Now users can access through its consoles or on personal computers powered by Windows software.
Sony and Microsoft are also poised to release new-generation video game consoles next year.
“While we expect dedicated consoles to eventually lose relevance in the face of cloud gaming services, there’s no guarantee that it will be Google’s service — rather than Sony and Microsoft’s — that catalyzes this trend,” said Ovum senior analyst Matthew Bailey.