FaceApp security concerns prompt DNC to warn 2020 Democratic campaigns to avoid Russian-made app

Posted at 6:43 AM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 08:53:55-04

WASHINGTON D.C. Top Democratic Party officials have warned 2020 presidential campaigns not to use the popular FaceApp, made by Russian developers, for fear of potential security and privacy concerns.

FaceApp has exploded in popularity in recent weeks, but the app — designed to guess what someone might look like as a senior citizen — is also considered by security experts to be an easy way to potentially compromise a user’s privacy, given that the terms of agreement essentially hand over ownership of a user’s photos.

“We have significant concerns about the app having access to your photos, or even simply uploading a selfie,” DNC chief security officer Bob Lord wrote in a memo to the campaigns on Wednesday.

“It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks. We recommend that campaign staff and people in the Democratic ecosystem should not use this app,” Lord said. “If you or any of your staff have already used the app, we recommend that they delete the app immediately.”

It was unclear whether the presidential campaigns were taking any security cues from the DNC, and a quick scan of the social media accounts of leading presidential campaigns suggested none were actively using the app.

But the party is obviously sensitive to potential security breaches. During the 2016 presidential campaign, hackers stole the private emails of John Podesta, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton. His emails were later published by WikiLeaks and the breach formed part of the basis for the FBI’s initial investigation of potential Russian interference in the elections.

In recent days, Trump administration officials have warned that Russia is still interfering in U.S. politics — mostly through social media — by amplifying division on issues like gun control and race. The administration has made it clear to Russia that it needs to “knock it off,” and says it has not seen sufficient evidence that Russia has ceased its activities.

News of the DNC’s security warnings to campaigns was first reported by CNN.