Hacked public Wi-Fi provider now in charge of facial recognition server network in Moscow

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Maxima Telecom, a Russian technology company that offers free public Wi-Fi in Moscow and St. Petersburg, will also be responsible with providing servers for the facial recognition network to be used in Moscow, according to the Kommersant business daily, writes the Moscow Times.

The collaboration resulted from Maxima Telecom winning a state contract worth 1.15 billion-ruble (U.S.$18 million), after the local government had already been working for two years on developing the biometric system, reads the report. By the end of the year, the goal is to install a total of 160,000 cameras, up from 3,000 in 2017.

The municipality allocated 7.5 billion rubles ($117 million) for the video surveillance system and 6 billion rubles ($93 million) to develop data-processing centers. According to Moscow police, over 100 suspects were arrested in two years due to the use of facial recognition in criminal investigations.

Earlier this year, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin boasted the system would be “competing maybe only with Chinese systems.”

According to the Moscow Times, Maxima Telecom fell victim to a security breach in 2018 that compromised the data of some 12 million users of the public Wi-Fi. The source says hackers had access to a year’s worth of residents’ movements, phone numbers and personal data in the public transportation system.

Last month, a Moscow resident and lawyer took the city to court over the public facial recognition system, seeking to ban its use after it was used to bring charges against peaceful protesters.

In June, the EU, of which Russia is not part, announced it was looking into restricting or even banning biometric facial recognition use in public surveillance systems, after an independent panel recommended lawmakers create “red lines” around certain applications of the technology.

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