This illustration picture shows FaceApp application logo displayed on the screen of a smartphone and in background a cybermap of Russia. (Photo illustration by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) — The viral popularity of FaceApp is prompting calls on Capitol Hill for a federal investigation.
Just as quickly as FaceApp went viral, it has now become the center of a lot of scrutiny in Washington with both the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission being called on to investigate the app’s Russian ties.
People FOX 5 spoke to Thursday say they downloaded the app, but now are having second thoughts and have deleted it.
“I had it for like 24 hours and then I saw news coverage about it and I was like ‘no, don’t need that,” said one person.
In a letter to the FBI and FTC calling for a FaceApp probe, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cites concerns saying “sensitive personal information of U.S. Citizens was provided to a hostile foreign power,” while the Democratic party has emailed 2020 presidential campaign staffers not to use apps that access photos.
FaceApp’s founder Yaroslav Goncharov says photos are deleted from the company’s St. Petersburg servers after 24 hours. Nevertheless, a House foreign relations committee warned that St. Petersburg is the heart of Russia’s online trolling operations. The concern? Digitally-aged photos may be used to make fake accounts.
“Thanks to the brave Russian journalists who've infiltrated the St. Petersburg-based troll factory in 2013, we know that a shady office pays people to build fake identities on social media," said investigative journalist Jessikka Aro.
“Russia and the things that they have done and these attacks, they're like bullies and many times bullies can't stand on their own with their own success and merits, they have to tear others down,” said Rep. William Keating (D-Massachusetts).
The Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman Virginia Senator Mark Warner told FOX 5, “If you’re thinking about downloading the FaceApp — buyer beware. While the app may be free, it is just another example of companies who trick users into handing over their data.”
It’s estimated nearly 80 million people have already downloaded FaceApp.