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Facial recognition changes in Moscow metro, Hong Kong airport spark privacy concerns



The city of Moscow has announced an expansion of its Metro facial recognition system for approximately US$12.5 million, the Kommersant reports.

The system will be expanded to include additional cameras at 85 metro stations. Cameras with on-device biometric processing will be deployed to 316 multimedia screens, along with behavior analytics to detect sudden movements, line-crossing and loitering.

According to the business publication, Moscow’s metro system already counted 5,000 working facial recognition cameras when it was unveiled in 2020.

Commenting on the news, a Moscow metro spokesman reportedly told the Interfax news agency the new cameras would not be utilized to track specific individuals, according to the Moscow Times.

Facial recognition was allegedly used by law enforcement to identify and detain frequent protestors prior to a series of demonstrations held across Russia this year, and a series of new laws has been signed to crack down on protestors.

Hong Kong relaxes airport biometric data privacy policy

The privacy policy for facial recognition checkpoints installed at Hong Kong Airport has also changed, with the appointed Authority recently relaxing its privacy policy to allow data-sharing with third parties, remove a time limit on data storage, and eliminate an anonymization clause, RFA reports.

A democracy activist and data scientist in Hong Kong told RFA that the changes could potentially allow authorities to use biometrics to track individuals arriving at the airport.

The move comes amidst renewed tensions between the mainland Chinese government and Hong Kongers.

The Hong Kong government has also announced the creation of a US$1 billion fund for “national security” operations.

The announcement was made by financial secretary Paul Chan on Wednesday, who also revealed a 7.7 percent rise in the policing budget for 2021, bringing the total spent on the police department to US$3.2 billion.

The functionary did not reportedly specify how the funds would be allocated, but according to an appendix to the budget released by government broadcaster RTHK, they would go towards the safeguard of national security and the approval of relevant posts “not restricted by Hong Kong laws.”

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