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Biometric surveillance systems cause concerns in Russia, Thailand

Public CCTV networks grow in Jaurez, Montego Bay, and San Francisco


A pair of Russians have filed a complaint against the mass use of facial recognition at a protest in Moscow with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Coda reports, suggesting the system deployed during a protest of 20,000 people last September violates multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Opposition politician Vladimir Milov and activist Alyona Popova have attempted unsuccessfully to fight the technology’s use on protestors in the Russian legal system. They say their rights to freedom of assembly and privacy were violated by the deployment of facial recognition on CCTV cameras mounted on metal detectors, which protestors were directed through.

Moscow-based technology expert Leonid Kovachich told Coda by email that while Russians have historically not had much concern for privacy and surveillance, the use of facial recognition has been increasingly scrutinized by groups in the country.

Residents of Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces (SBPs), where much of the population is made up of ethnic Malay Muslims, are experiencing more biometric checks than their compatriots. Another Coda report notes that cellular connections have been cut off for Thais in the region who have not provided their biometric data for registration with their SIMs.

The requirement, which was announced last year, went into affect in April.

More than 7,000 people are reported to have died in violence by separatist rebels and Thai Security forces since 2005, and the region is governed differently from the rest of Thailand as a result. Media reports suggest that DNA testing has been implemented for Malay Thai citizens returning to the country, with some saying they thought the data collection was for COVID-19 testing.

Thai human rights group The Cross Cultural Foundation has documented more than 100 incidents of involuntary DNA collection, and more than 8,200 security cameras in the region feed video back to authorities in Bangkok. Coda reports that Megvii is focusing on the Thai market, and demonstrated its Face++ facial recognition to government and law enforcement officials in 2018.

Civil society groups say the lack of data protection in the country means the proposed national digital ID system could easily be linked with expanding biometric records to increase government surveillance.

CCTV networks growing in Jaurez, Montego Bay, and San Francisco

A network of more than a thousand smart, high-definition cameras with facial recognition and license plate reading are being brought online to address rampant crime and crack down on drug cartels in Juarez, Mexico, Alabama outlet WKRG reports.

There were nearly 1,500 murders in Juarez last year, and officials hope the $11 million project which involves 1,078 cameras connected to an Intelligence Center referred to as CERI will deter some criminals and allow authorities to catch others. Some of the cameras can rotate 360 degrees, and not all of the cameras have facial recognition and license-plate reading capabilities.

The Governor of Chihuahua also said that CERI officers will be able to access cellphone videos of crimes that are uploaded by citizens.

Security cameras with facial recognition from an unnamed Chinese supplier that can identify people a mile away in heavy rain have been deployed to Montego Bay by the area’s Chinese business community, Jamaican publication The Gleaner reports.

A plan known as JamaicaEye, which involved the installation of 300 CCTV cameras, was planned during 2018, but a more recent assessment estimates 100 high-quality cameras could improve the city’s security. As of July 4, St. James Parish has had 58 murders, a 17 percent decrease from a year ago, though the number of robberies increased by one.

A police source told The Gleaner that the cameras that have been deployed so far have assisted in a number of arrests. Footage not related to a criminal incident is deleted, the source said.

A network of cameras popping up on private property around San Francisco does not use facial recognition, though the ACLU says that is what it is being designed for, according to a New York Times article.

The camera network is being bankrolled by Ripple Co-founder Chris Larsen. It has surpassed 1,000 cameras since Larsen started the project in 2012, which are operated by Community Benefit Districts, a kind of non-profit neighborhood organization.

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