Warsaw, Poland – A privacy panic has took the world by storm regarding the top trending app of the moment.
On Thursday, Poland announced it would launch a probe into potential security risks posed by FaceApp, the Russian-made viral digital application that allows users to see themselves aged – among other physical changes.
“For several days in Poland and the world over, social media have been flooded by a wave of modified photos of ‘ageing’ users'”, the Polish digital affairs ministry said in a statement. “Various experts point to possible risks related to inadequate protection of users’ privacy”.
On the same day, Lithuania’s deputy-defence minister Edvinas Kerza told AFP that the country’s cyber-security authorities were also examining potential threats posed by FaceApp as regards to personal data protection.
These announcements come only one day after U.S. lawmakers sounded the alarm regarding the Russian-made app. On Wednesday, Senate minority leader leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI to “look into the national security and privacy risks” of FaceApp – an application developed by Wireless Lab, based in the Skolkovo high-tech hub near Moscow and often dubbed Russia’s Silicon Valley.
FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov had previously downplayed security concerns. Talking to the Washington Post, he said that most pictures taken on the app are deleted from its servers within 48 hours, and that Russian authorities didn’t have access to any user data.
Talking to Forbes this week, Goncharov stroke a reassuring tone: “We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties”. Moreover, some analysts argue that the security concerns regarding FaceApp are overblown and are only “another of the Web’s many storm-in-teacup moments”, pointing out for instance that most of the app’s servers are based in the U.S.
Created over two years ago and already popular back in 2017, FaceApp went viral again recently after it added a new ageing feature, using artificial intelligence to show users how they might possibly look when growing old. It’s currently the top trending free app on Google Play and boasts over 100 million downloads.