Cities in China most watched by CCTV surveillance, new face biometrics systems for Moscow and Spain

Privacy rights groups call for ‘day of action’ to ban facial recognition at all schools

There are 770 million public CCTV surveillance cameras in the world’s 150 largest cities by population, and 54 percent of them are in China, according to Comparitech’s list of the most surveilled cities in the world. London (third) and Hyderabad (sixteenth) are the only non-Chinese cities among the 20 with the most CCTV cameras.

Many cities placing in the top 50 but outside the top 20 are also located in China, while cities in India, Iraq, Russia, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, Turkey, the U.S., Thailand, Mexico and Germany also show up between numbers 21 and 50. Los Angeles is the sole U.S. city on the list, at number 46.

Taiyuan in China’s Shanxi province has nearly 120 cameras per 1,000 residents, according to the report, and Wuxi in Jiangsu province is second in camera concentration, with more than 92 cameras per 1,000 people. London is next, with 67.5 cameras per 1,000 people, but by number 50 on the list (Berlin), the concentration is 4.9 cameras per 1,000 residents. The widespread adoption of biometric facial recognition in China is also noted.

Last year’s list was not limited to the 150 most populous cities, and showed Atlanta and London mixed in with Chinese cities among the world’s most surveilled.

The report also explores the correlation between CCTV networks and crime. While Taiyuan has a relatively high crime rate, similar to that of London, statistics indicate that Wuxi is an unusually safe city. The correlation is generally weak.

Moscow Metro plans biometric surveillance system

The Moscow Metro’s 1.4 billion-ruble plan to equip subway cars with facial biometrics and demographic analysis will be carried out through contracts with MaximaTelecom, Infocompass and Software Product, the BBC reports, although the former has denied involvement in the program.

BBC has viewed tender documents which indicate the companies’ involvement and that the system will also collect phone numbers and have the ability to decrypt communications.

The transit operator plans to install new cameras in nearly 6,000 vehicles, with 1,500 planned for completion by the end of this year.

Moscow Department of Transport head Maxim Liksutov has been reported to be related to a woman who received a 33 percent share in Software Product, which was transferred back to the company after it was reported last year. The BBC’s report also details an office building owned by Liksutov’s ex-wife which is the registered home of the woman who briefly held the 33 percent share in Software Product, but the building’s security guard could find no trace of its presence.

There are also connections between current and former MaximaTelecom shareholders and Liksutov, according to the report, all of which may exacerbate what ANO Information Culture head Ivan Begtin described to the BBC as “deep political distrust” in Moscow authorities.

Facial recognition to assist law enforcement efforts in Spain

The Interior Ministry of Spain has approved the use of biometric facial recognition at stadiums, concert venues and other large sporting and cultural events, as well as rural areas to identify people who are wanted on criminal charges, The Local reports.

The country’s Centre for Technological and Industrial Development (CDTI) has reached an agreement with the government to install cameras at large venues and in rural areas across Spain, with the intention of providing alerts to law enforcement officers. This may allow the number of officers deployed to events to be reduced, while areas with low concentrations of population and police could potentially be made more secure.

A report in Spain’s State Bulletin (BOE) also suggests the system could be used for tracking down mobile phones or wallets stolen at large events.

Spain’s largest supermarket chain Mercadona implemented facial recognition from AnyVision to spot banned customers just weeks ago.

The Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) recently issued a note warning of misconceptions about biometrics, and has companies that using facial recognition with temperature screening in most situations is illegal under GDPR.

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