They launch payment for facial recognition in the subway of Russia

Moscow launched payment for facial recognition in the subway on Friday, the latest example of the rapid, and for some controversial, development of this technology in Russia.

“To enter the subway, passengers do not need a card or a mobile phone: just look at a camera,” said the mayor’s transport manager, Maxim Liksutov, quoted in a statement.

According to him, Moscow is “the first city in the world in which the system operates on such a scale”, with 241 metro stations. He added that paying for facial recognition is “just a way to pay” and that it remains “voluntary.”

Liksoutov expects 10-15% of passengers to use the system regularly in “two to three years”.

The system is expected to reduce waiting times on Moscow’s huge metro network, one of the busiest in Europe.

The authorities promised that the data collected through facial recognition will be “securely encrypted”, and that the turnstile camera will read a “biometric key” and not an image of the person’s face.

The technology, which is developing rapidly in Russia, has nevertheless been criticized by several Russian and international NGOs, concerned about abuse, data leakage and lack of consent.

Facial recognition has been used in Moscow, which has a network of tens of thousands of cameras, to detain opposition protesters and monitor compliance with Covid-19 quarantines.

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