FBI examining FaceApp over potential counterintelligence concerns

FBIThe United States Federal Bureau of Investigation says it is examining possible counterintelligence threats in connection with the popular online application FaceApp, which is headquartered in Russia. The application first made its appearance in January of 2017 and quickly became popular among smartphone users around the world. It allows users to upload a photograph of their face and then edit it with the help of artificial-intelligence software. The software can change the user’s photograph to make it look younger or older, or make it look as if it is from the opposite gender. The result can be impressively realistic and life-like.

The St. Petersburgh-based company behind FaceApp, Wireless Lab, claims that the photos of users are uploaded to cloud servers situated in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. They are then deleted within two days from the moment they are uploaded by users, without ever being transferred to servers located in the territory of Russia. But the FBI does not seem to believe these assurances. In a letter sent late last month to the Minority Leader of the US Senate, Charles Schumer (D-NY), the Bureau said it was examining FaceApp as part of its counterintelligence mission.

In the letter, which was published on Monday, Jill Tyson, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, said the fact that Wireless Lab is based in Russia raised a number of counterintelligence concerns. These relate to the types of data Wireless Lab collects on its customers and the privacy policies that apply to Russian Internet companies. According to Tyson, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has the right to “remotely access all communications and servers on Russian networks without making a request” to network providers. He added that, if the FBI found that FaceApp was involved in activities meant to interfere with upcoming elections in the United States, the Bureau would investigate the matter further, and possibly involve the Foreign Influence Task Force, an FBI-led body that was established after the 2016 US presidential elections.

The FBI’s letter was written in response to an earlier letter sent to the Bureau by Senator Schumer in July, which expressed concerns about potential threats posed by FaceApp to the privacy of American Internet users and to the nations’ security as a whole.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 December 2019 | Permalink

News you may have missed #752

Charles SchumerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US companies ‘use military-style planes’ to make maps. Companies such as Apple and Google could push the limits of citizens’ privacy thanks to the use of “military-grade spy planes” when creating their next-generation mapping technologies, according to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Schumer expressed his concerns in a letter to the two companies, arguing that hyper-detailed images of people’s backyards and other objects could pose a threat to both privacy and national security. The Senator also pointed out the potential for criminals and, yes, even terrorists to view detailed maps of “sensitive utilities”.
►►CIA wanted ‘torture cage’ for secret prison. Polish Senator Jozef Pinior claims prosecutors in Krakow have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiekuty, a Polish army base used as a CIA prison for al-Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. “In a state with rights”, Pinior told the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, “people in prison are not kept in cages”. He said a cage was “non-standard equipment” for a prison, but standard “if torture was used there”. After Poland launched its official investigation of the Stare Kiekuty site, President Bronislaw Komorowski said the probe was needed because “the reputation of Poland is at stake”.
►►US Air Force spy planes facing postwar cut. The US Air Force plans to cut back on the number of Hawker Beechcraft’s MC-12 spy planes it wants to operate after the draw-down from Afghanistan and Iraq, official data indicates. With declining operations, the aircraft began to lose its priority role and recent comments indicated at least some of the aircraft would either be grounded or given to the National Guard or other services. Since the MC-12 was first deployed in Iraq, U. forces have acquired access to more sophisticated surveillance aircraft as well as drones that can perform roles previously assigned to manned aircraft.

Analysis: Israel Lobby Ousts US Intelligence Nominee

Chas Freeman

Chas Freeman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The near-hysterical reaction by Washington’s pro-Israel lobby against Charles “Chas” Freeman’s candidacy for National Intelligence Commission (NIC) Director has paid off. On Monday, Freeman, a State Department official with 44 years’ experience in the US diplomatic service, decided to withdraw his nomination to head the NIC –the government agency that works with the US intelligence community to compile national intelligence estimates. On February 26, Freeman, who was US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, was nominated for the job by Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair. Blair had said the veteran diplomat would bring with him to the post “a wealth of knowledge and expertise in defense, diplomacy and intelligence”. But Freeman’s nomination was met almost immediately with vehement opposition from pro-Israeli lobby groups in Washington. Republican members of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as at least ten House Representatives, began a vocal campaign to stop Freeman’s NIC candidacy. Chief among the pro-Israel lawmakers were two Jewish Democrats from New York, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Steve Israel. Along with another usual suspect, “independent” Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, they described Freeman as a “controversial” diplomat with “strong political opinions”, who “appear[s] inclined to lean against Israel” with “statements against Israel [that] were way over the top”. Read article →