FaceApp: Netherlands police backtrack over calls to delete it

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Forces had warned that Russian ageing app was not bound by EU privacy legislation

Police forces in the Netherlands have backtracked on calls for users to delete the popular age-filtering FaceApp, over which some critics have voiced privacy fears.

In a series of posts on Facebook, it was erroneously claimed by forces across the country that the Russian app, which predicts how people will look as they get older, was not safe as it would not be bound by European privacy legislation.We want to warn you about this, at first glance, innocent app,” the police wrote. “The FaceApp is a product of a Russian company. European privacy legislation is therefore not applicable here.

“By using the FaceApp, an enormous amount of data is collected. Such as photos, IP addresses, specific data from your smartphone, and cookies are also placed. European privacy legislation is therefore not applicable here. That is why we advise you to remove the FaceApp from your phone!”

But the forces in Maastricht, Limburg, Schagen and Den Helder were forced to issue a clarification after experts highlighted the inaccuracy in their claims.A spokesman writing on Maastricht police forces’ Facebook page said the original advice had been issued as it wished “to make our followers digitally conscious” but added that “the post in question also contains false information”.

Because FaceApp processed personal data from users located in the EU, it was covered by the relevant European legislation, the spokesman said. “Even though this company is/would be located in Russia.”

The police Facebook post added: “Always inform yourself in advance whether or not you install/use an app.”

The development highlights the challenges faced by law enforcement authorities across the world in keeping up with the online world and the wealth of complex legislation being produced in order to crack potential cybercrime.FaceApp, which was created in 2017, allows users to upload a photo and apply a filter to show what they could look like when older or younger. It has attracted a spike in popularity in recent weeks after its use by celebrities posting on social media.

But the app’s Russian provenance has caused a series of organisations to issue warnings about the technology.

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The Democratic National Committee has reportedly sent an alert warning its 2020 presidential campaigns from using the app. The party’s Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, has asked the FBI to launch a national security investigation into FaceApp.

The head of Iran’s police force has also warned users that “any photo or information they make available to this software are saved in a server outside the country and may be used for different purposes later on”.

FaceApp has said data is never transferred to Russia and is instead stored on US-controlled cloud computing services provided by Amazon and Google. It says most images are deleted within 48 hours. Under European directives, a user of the app can legally ensure images are deleted.

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