Privacy Fears As Moscow Metro Deploys Facial Recognition Pay System | Russia

The Moscow metro has deployed what authorities have rented as the world’s first large-scale facial recognition payment system, amid privacy concerns over new technology.

The cashless, cardless and phone-less system, named Face Pay, was launched on Friday at more than 240 stations across the Russian capital.

“From now on, all passengers will be able to pay for their trip without taking out their phone, metro or bank card,” said the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin. tweeted Thursday night.

To activate Face Pay, Sobyanin said, passengers will need to connect their photo, bank card and metro card to the service through the metro’s mobile app. “It will be enough to look at the camera to pass the turnstiles,” said Sobianin.

Authorities in Moscow, who predict that up to 15% of metro passengers will use Face Pay regularly over the next three years, said the system will speed up the flow of people, especially at peak times.

“Moscow is the first in the world to introduce Face Pay on such a scale. The technology is new and very complex, we will continue to work to improve it, ”added the mayor.

The authorities have noted passenger data will be “securely encrypted”, indicating that the information collected will be stored in data processing centers to which only Interior Ministry staff have access.

However, activists have sounded the alarm bells about privacy concerns. “This is a dangerous new step in Russia’s pressure for control of its population. We need to have full transparency on how this app will work in practice, ”said Stanislav Shakirov, founder of Roskomsvoboda, a group dedicated to protecting digital rights and freedom of information.

“We are getting closer to authoritarian countries like China that have mastered facial technology. The Moscow metro is a government institution and all data can end up in the hands of the security services, ”he added.

Moscow recently extended its facial recognition technology across the capital, with a network of more than 175,000 surveillance cameras.

Human rights activists said the cameras were used to identify protesters who attended rallies in support of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Facial recognition has also been used to enforce Covid-19 quarantines during Russia’s two-month lockdown in spring 2020.

The Russian Metro – the busiest in Europe, with more than 6 million daily passengers – is considered a tourist attraction in itself, with stations richly decorated with mosaics reflecting a range of Soviet themes.

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