COVID-19’s not-so-strange biometrics bedfellows in Eurasia

Categories Biometric R&D  |  Biometrics News  |  Surveillance

Hikvision biometric facial recognition cameras

COVID-19 appears to be accelerating the warming of relations between the world’s biggest authoritarian nations, Russia and China. The practical implication of this could be a re-alignment in worldwide biometric tech supremacy.

An article in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty points to, for example, Russian cooperation with Hikvision, a Chinese facial recognition firm (which is in part owned by the Communist party). The company is an essential part of China’s technological reaction to COVID-19.

Russia has deployed an enormous amount of surveillance infrastructure, but it is not as extensive nor of the same caliber as systems that are commonplace in China, first for populace control and now for COVID-19 control.

Like China, Russia has used biometric systems to find and punish people for breaking quarantine. In Russia, the technology in civilian areas primarily blankets only Moscow, however.

Radio Free Europe says the pressure of COVID-19 has “exposed the limits of Russia’s surveillance systems,” which it says suffers from “a lack of comprehensive data, coordination, and sloppy implementation.”

Russia’s political leaders have looked to the West for commercial partners to build infrastructure, such as 5G, but the United States in particular is viewed as more of an unpredictable threat politically and commercially.

And China, as it continues to emerge from generations of isolation, has said it wants to dominate the world in technology and finance the way it does today with manufacturing.

Moscow is likely to become a major client of Chinese biometric surveillance. While Russia remains a developing nation, with far less buying power than the United States or the European Union, its appetite would fuel much in the way of research and development.

This is not a sure bet. The two nations have previously orbited one another sympathetically before clashing and backing away.

But following the money, the pair may have finally settled into a stable and profitable relationship. As the Radio Free Europe article notes, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a $1 billion investment deal to develop technology projects.

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