by Jesse Smith | Truth Unmuted
The use of biometric data including facial recognition, iris, and finger print scans is accelerating all over the world. As the planet moves to a fully digital environment, the danger of constant surveillance and the removal of individual privacy threaten to completely redefine the human existence.
Russia provides the latest example of a major move to get citizens used to the concept of scanning your face to access public services. According to FindBiometrics,
The Moscow metro has officially launched its promised naked payments system at more than 240 stations across the city. The new Face Pay system eliminates the need for cash, cards, and phones and allows residents to pay their transit fares with only a facial recognition scan.
To use the service, interested residents will first need to download the metro service’s mobile app. They will then be able to use the app to submit a photo, and the app will link that photo to their metro card and their payment information in their account. After that, Face Pay will be able to process a payment when the user presents their face at a participating station.
We must constantly remember that tools that make life more convenient often fall into the hands of (and/or are designed by) those with malicious intent like hackers, but more importantly governments and intelligence agencies. The data gathered using biometric methods could speed up our commute one day and the next day be used to label someone an anti-government conspirator for visiting the “wrong” person or spending time at the “wrong” place!
Fortunately, the alarm bells are already going off in Moscow, as the FindBiometrics article warns:
…the new system is not without its detractors. The authorities have claimed that all biometric data will be encrypted and stored in secure processing centers, and that only key ministry staff will have access to that information. Unfortunately, Moscow has struggled with privacy in the past. The city started rolling out a controversial surveillance network back in 2020, and soon came under fire after privacy advocates uncovered a pay-for-play service that allowed regular civilians to purchase unrestricted access to the law enforcement system.
In doing so, the activists learned that the city was still storing biometric data that should have been deleted. The Moscow surveillance system now has more than 175,000 cameras, and uses facial recognition technology from NtechLab, which has also been criticized for running a facial recognition app that enabled stalking on social media.
“This is a dangerous new step in Russia’s push for control over its population. We need to have full transparency on how this application will work in practice,” said Roskomsvoboda founder Stanislav Shakirov. Roskomsvoboda is a privacy watchdog that advocates for digital rights and freedom of information in Russia.
Shakirov seems to understand the danger this system poses and is rightly calling the government to accountability and transparency. As these systems are trialed in cities across the globe, it is the duty of the citizenry in each nation to push back against these attempts to gain greater levels of control and surveillance under the guise of convenience and “security.”