The FBI recently labeled FaceApp "a potential counterintelligence threat". Picture: Jenny Kane/AP

New York - A controversial Russian smartphone app is facing flak from the FBI.

The FBI recently labeled FaceApp "a potential counterintelligence threat" and said it will look into whether the popular smartphone app has been used by the Russian government to interfere in US elections, the Daily News has learned.

In a November 25 letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, an assistant FBI director said the Russian-owned app - which allows people to make themselves look younger or older in photos - poses a threat because of the sweeping ways in which the Kremlin can access "telephonic and online communications."

"The FBI considers any mobile application or similar product developed in Russia, such as FaceApp, to be a potential counterintelligence threat, based on the data the product collects, its privacy and terms of use policies, and the legal mechanisms available to the government of Russia that permit access to data within Russia's borders," the assistant director, Jill Tyson, wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The News on Monday.

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As a result, Tyson said, the FBI will "assess" whether "elected officials, candidates, political campaigns, or political parties" in the US have been targets of "foreign influence operations involving FaceApp."

Tyson's letter marks the first time the FBI has officially labeled FaceApp a potential threat to US election security.

The missive came in response to a July 17 letter from Schumer, D-New York, calling on the bureau to investigate whether the app could "pose national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens."

FaceApp's terms of service allow the software's developers to share user data without consent. Additionally, users must allow the app full and irrevocable access to nearly all their photos and cellphone data, opening up the risk that developers could share such information with third parties.

FaceApp, which is headquartered in St Petersburg, has denied selling its data to third parties. Representatives for the app did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

dpa