Reading Time: 2 minutes

Facial recognition systems are widely used around the world from metro stations, supermarkets, payment systems, and more. Moscow is not an exception to this, the facial recognition systems are widely used especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian authorities have been using them to enforce lockdown measures across Russia with the residents turning to contactless payments.

As the technology is getting accepted widely across Russia there are a few rights activists who warn about the creepy state of surveillance.

X5 one of the country’s leading food retailers announced on March 10, they will roll out dozens of facial recognition systems in its supermarkets across Moscow. The group has around 3000 stores across Russia, the technology will be featured in all its stores by the end of 2021.

Ivan Melnik, X5 innovation director said, “This is convenient for customers since they don’t have to carry a wallet or take their phone out of their pocket. They can just use a button and pay with their face.”

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition allows a system to identify or confirm the identity of an individual using their face. The system can identify the people in photos, videos, or real-time.

It comes under the biometric security category identical to voice recognition, fingerprint recognition, and eye retina or iris recognition. It is a widely used technology by security and law enforcement. We can see them being used in other areas such as supermarkets, malls for payments, etc.

X5 collaboration with VISA

X5 has developed the technology in partnership with Visa’s payment system and Russia’s state bank giant Sberbank. The system promises to protect user privacy and secure against identity theft and transactions are encrypted.

Russian have welcomed the digital revolution, nearly 70% of the population plans to use the payment system. These numbers have propelled quickly due to an increase in contactless transactions during the Covid pandemic.

Organizations against the use of Facial Recognition System

Though the facial recognition system has its supporters, it also has a few rights activists against it. Roskomsvoboda digital rights NGO last year protested against the use of the system highlighting abuses of the system, data leaks, and lack of consent.

According to Alyona Popova, a prominent opposition activist the system was used to illegally identify her and her supporters without consent. Though the suit was rejected by a court in Moscow.

Alexei Navalny, another critic of the system was put in jail for carrying out protests against the system in January and early February. He raised concerns over the system being used against demonstrators and activists by authorities to track them down at the rallies using facial recognition technology.

Facial Recognition System Widely Used

Facial recognition systems are widely used all over the world for various activities namely

  • Unlocking phones
  • Law enforcement
  • Airports and border control
  • Finding missing persons
  • Reducing retail crime
  • Improving retail experiences
  • Banking
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Healthcare
  • Tracking student or worker attendance
  • Recognizing drivers
  • Monitoring gambling addictions