FaceApp was having a viral moment with its AI-backed photo-editing technology, which transformed celebrities and friends into decades-older versions of themselves, until its vague privacy terms and Russian origins began raising concerns among political leaders and social media users.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked the FBI and Federal Trade Commission to investigate FaceApp on the grounds its app could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.” That same day, the Democratic National Committee urged 2020 presidential campaigns to delete the app “immediately.” DNC officials got burned by Russian hackers during the 2016 race and have since invested heavily in cybersecurity to prevent a repeat.
Though some 80 million users have tapped FaceApp’s technology to digitally alter their faces, little is known about the company behind it. Wireless Lab was founded by Yaroslav Goncharov, who also serves as its CEO, in February 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Before he launched FaceApp, Goncharov worked for Microsoft as a technical lead in Redmond, Washington, for three years starting in 2003 and more recently held executive positions for Russian telecommunications companies, SPB Software and Yandex. He received his master’s degree in computer science from Saint Petersburg State University in Russia in 2001.
Wireless Lab is based in St. Petersburg, where the app’s research and development team is located, Goncharov told The Washington Post.
FaceApp is also incorporated in Delaware, according to state filings, and registered with a Wilmington, Delaware, phone number.
Users can only dispute small claims against FaceApp, not class-action lawsuits, according to its terms and conditions. It falls under state or federal jurisdiction for Santa Clara County, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
If you’re concerned about your data, just deleting it from the app won’t cut it, according to its privacy terms. Goncharov said that users who want to remove their data from FaceApp can make the request through the app by clicking “Settings,” then “Support,” then “Report a bug” with “privacy” in the subject line.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Hannah Denham