Social media users have been warned a new app which involves uploading profile photos has links to Russia.
Tens of thousands of people have added their pictures to the servers of the NewProfilePic app, with no idea that their images are going to Moscow.
The app allows users to upload an existing photo of themselves to create a profile picture that looks like a painting or a cartoon.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ offshore leaks database shows the company behind the app has an address in Moscow and is also linked to the British Virgin Islands.
The firm, Linerock Investments, is reportedly based in an apartment complex overlooking the Moscow River, beside Russia’s Ministry of Defense and just three miles from the Red Square.
Jake Moore, a global cybersecurity adviser, told MailOnline: ‘This app is likely a way of capturing people’s faces in high resolution and I would question any app wanting this amount of data, especially one which is largely unheard of and based in another country.’
According to the Google Play Storethe app has been installed more than a million times and has been reviewed by around 30,000 users.
It’s currently listed as the number one free app on the App Store.
Photo Lab spokesperson Kate Polezhaeva told The Independent while the app has’ development and customer support offices in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus… the top management of the company and the managers of the majority of the projects, including myself, are based out of these countries’.
Ms Polezhaeva also clarified the address on Moscow River is the address of the lawyers who registered the company, and said they never had an office there.
‘It is true that the domain was registered to the Moscow address,’ she added. ‘It is the former Moscow address of the founder of the company. He does not live in the Russian Federation at the moment.
‘By now the address has been changed in order to avoid any confusion.’
The app’s description reads: ‘The NewProfilePic app lets you change your user image style as often as you want. Dare to be different, with a profile pic that reflects your current mood or state of mind. Impress your friends on social media and keep them interested in what’s coming next! ‘
When downloading the app, users agree to share their location, information about what kind of device they’re using, and other photos uploaded to their social media accounts.
‘We collect your name, email address, user name, social network information and other information you provide when you register,’ it adds.
The app also collects data about the user from other companies, as well as the user’s IP address, browser type and settings.
In response to claims the app is ‘Russian malware’, the fact-checking website Snopes wrote ‘there’s little evidence to suggest this app is any more invasive in its collection of user data than other apps’.
But experts always urge users to be cautious when uploading pictures and personal data on any app, no matter its origin.
In 2019, a similar app went viral with the FaceApp age challenge.
The Russian app prompted concerns from a UK watchdog over potential privacy issues.