Leaks and Lawsuits Ruin Russia Facial Recognition
Cloud computing and AI have popularised face recognition technology all over the world. However, this program is not as successful as we would like it to be.
Some time ago, Anna Kuznetsova saw an advertising
offering access to Moscow's face recognition cameras. She had to pay 16K roubles (about $200) and send a photo of the person she wanted spying on.
Anna is a 20-year-old volunteer for a digital rights group investigating leaks in Moscow's pervasive surveillance system sent a picture of herself and waited. Two days later and she had a phone call.
According to ti her lawyers, the seller had forwarded the paralegal a detailed list of all the addresses in Moscow where she had been spotted by cameras over the previous month. Now the incident is under police investigation.
The incident has become the center of one of the lawsuits brought in recent months against the Russian authorities over their use of face recognition. The rise of cloud computing and AI technologies have popularised this technology all over the world. Critics say that benefits come at the cost of lost privacy and increased surveillance.
Moscow has more than 105K cameras and this is one of the world's most comprehensive surveillance systems. Authorities admit it has cut crime and helped the city enforce coronavirus lockdown restrictions but rights activists say cameras have been used to monitor political rallies and a lack of clear rules allows for abuse.
Anna replied to an ad offering facial recognition records on Telegram (a popular messaging app).
It took a couple of messages, with no questions asked about how the results would be used or by whom. Anna was sent 79 snapshots that positively identified her in the city, alongside times and addresses.
Moscow's DIT (Department of Technology) that manages the surveillance program, said reports of illegal access to the system were rare and sent for investigation.
Ann together with Roskomsvoboda has filed a suit seeking to pause facial recognition until clear rules are in place, as well as damages, with the case set to be heard in December.