Moscow launches live facial biometrics surveillance network NtechLab CEO calls world’s largest
Video surveillance analytics including biometric facial recognition provided by NtechLab has been launched at scale in Moscow as of the first of January, according to comments by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported by Lenta.ru.
Services provided by NtechLab include detection of a certain face in the frame (detection) and recognition of individuals from a database, which are followed by notifications to law enforcement. A representative of NtechLab emphasized to Lenta that final identification decisions are only made by law enforcement officials and in accordance with the law.
The final value of the company’s contract with Moscow’s Department of Information Technology (DIT) is unknown, but the initial price in contract documents was 200 million rubles (US$3.1 million), and Forbes reports the company has said it will receive $3.2 million for its work. NtechLab developed the technology from scratch, according to the report, rather than simply licensing the core of its FindFace Security product. The product made for Moscow’s extensive CCTV system is capable of running simultaneously on hundreds of thousands of cameras, the company representative claims.
NtechLab CEO Alexey Minin spoke with Biometric Update in December about the company’s work on safe city projects around the world. Minin tells Forbes that Moscow’s new system is the largest live facial recognition project in the world.
Minin also told The Verge that the database used with the system will be a watchlist of suspects, and that the FindFace Security mobile app is used for alerts. The CEO notes that companies like Clearview AI “that really do not care for privacy rights” are harming the industry’s reputation.
“When carefully orchestrated, the system is not only harmless to regular people, it helps a lot in catching terrorists, criminals, pedophiles and pickpockets by aiding police to identify them in seconds and locate and capture them in hours instead of days and weeks,” Minin told The Verge. “The software itself doesn’t break any laws or do any harm.”
The system also enables the use of video analysis technology from other vendors, and VisionLabs and Tevian were named by a DIT representative among companies Moscow has purchased temporary licenses for recognition algorithms from.
A legal challenge to the system will be heard in court this week, Reuters reports, as activist Alena Popova has launched a second challenge, this time in collaboration with opposition politician Vladimir Milov of the Solidarnost party. They are seeking a ban on the technology’s use at mass events and protests.
The system is currently up to 175,000 cameras, with 3.3 billion rubles ($53.3 million) allocated to hardware, according to a state purchase database.
Reuters also reports that the EU has scrapped a proposal to ban the use of facial recognition in public spaces.