Russian biometrics executives discuss Moscow surveillance system

Russian daily RiaNovosti recently interviewed a pair of biometrics company executives about the facial recognition system Moscow is planning to roll out to the city’s 160,000 surveillance cameras, and American Foreign Policy Council Fellow in Russia Studies Samuel Bendett provides some highlights and context in English in an article for Defense One.

Russia is in the process of scaling up its facial recognition deployment, and NTechlab is among companies considered likely to be involved.

NTechlab CEO Artem Kuharenko told RiaNovosti that the company’s FindFace is in operation in pilot programs in various Russian cities, and has been credited with helping to solve nearly 2,000 crimes in the Tartarstan region alone. He also says that he believes Moscow authorities will use the system to check a database of criminals, rather than pay for the database and capacity to monitor the movements of millions of people. He also said the biometric data will be well protected, with limited access available to government employees, and the images destroyed after analysis.

IVA Cognitive is another company that may be involved, and IVA CEO Alexey Tsessarsky speculated that officials may organize a consortium or trial multiple vendor solutions at once.

The company’s technology includes predictive analytics, in addition to biometrics.

“The system can be trained to search for crowds of people where a given individual could appear, or to identify suspicious actions: someone very quickly waving his arms, running, grabbing an object that resembles a weapon. It is, in fact, the monitoring of potentially dangerous situations,” Tsessarsky says.

Both executives concede there are risks associated with the technology, but say they are outweighed by the benefits.

“This happens with any technology. We, as developers, see a lot of useful options for its use, but there are always those who think differently,” says Kuharenko. “And yet the benefits are incomparably more than harm.”

Bendett writes that the RiaNovosti article strongly implies the system will be deployed to other cities in Russia once it is successful in Moscow.

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