Moscow, a city with a population of 12.7 million, has one of the largest video surveillance systems in the world. It has used facial recognition technology to enforce quarantine to deal with COVID-19, while protesters who attended political rallies have also said police have used it for pre-emptive arrests and detentions.
Now the authorities are enabling those who use the subway to make use of facial recognition technology to pay for their ticket, through a system called “Face Pay” that is installed on a rotating mechanism (turnstile) equipped with cameras.
“Moscow is the first city in the world where this system operates on such a scale,” said the head of the Russian capital’s transport directorate. Also, the use of “Face Pay” is optional and that other payment methods remain in use.
Until now, before this system was put into operation, passengers had to give their photo and connect it to their travel cards and bank cards through a Moscow metro app. Now those who use the subway, and are enrolled in “Face Pay” simply have to look at a camera that has been placed on a designated hallway. The city’s transport directorate said passenger data will be encrypted securely.
However, groups working on the protection of digital rights argue that the system could undermine privacy and human rights.
Roskomsvoboda, a group working on protecting digital rights and freedom of information, warned that “Face Pay” could be used for tracking purposes.
The Moscow mayor’s office had announced in 2018, when Russia had hosted the FOOTBALL World Cup, that it had put in place a facial recognition system in the subway to identify wanted criminals.