July 18, 2019In the News

Ehrhardt quoted in Law360's, "Schumer Wants FaceApp's Data Usage, Russian Ties Probed"

Law 360

Michael Best Partner Adrienne Ehrhardt was quoted in Law360's article, "Schumer Wants FaceApp's Data Usage, Russian Ties Probed" on July 18, 2019.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is asking the FBI and Federal Trade Commission to look into privacy and national security concerns posed by the rapid rise of the photo-altering FaceApp app, which is run by a Russian tech company and has scooped up personal data from millions of Americans.  

FaceApp — which transforms portrait-style photos submitted by users to make the subjects appear older or younger, change their gender or make them smile — has been on the market since 2017, but has recently exploded in popularity as celebrities and millions of other Americans have been sharing the altered images produced by the app across social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram. 

The free app's sudden popularity spike has prompted concerns about what Wireless Lab, the Russian developer behind the app, is doing with the troves of personal and biometric data that has been collected and with whom that information is being shared. The Senate's top Democrat joined this chorus Wednesday, firing off a letter to the heads of the FBI and FTC raising alarm about the new viral craze. 

Adrienne Ehrhardt, who chairs Michael Best & Friedrich LLP’s privacy and cybersecurity practice group, said Thursday that the concerns raised over FaceApp’s privacy and security protections "serve as a good illustration of how informing consumers of privacy practices through a privacy notice is not a proxy for actually educating consumers about those practices."

Several disclosures in the privacy policy are likely to be of particular interest to those scrutinizing the app, including the way the policy defines and uses anonymized data and the disclosure that FaceApp may respond to government requests from non-U.S. jurisdictions, according to Ehrhardt, who regularly advises on privacy issues but isn't involved in the FaceApp situation. 

But "even if these disclosures were read, it would not be improbable that many individuals in the United States would still engage with FaceApp and throw caution to the wind if the app is exciting or cool enough," Ehrhardt added. "How do we protect people from themselves?”

To read the full article, click here.

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