Russia offers carrots to consolidate biometrics systems under government control
Always a means and an end for Russia’s government, centralization is increasing when it comes to biometric data and systems in the nation.
No sooner had the Russian federal government decided in 2016 to develop biometrics for citizen identification and electronic transaction verification, than the government stated it wanted to build a single database for the country.
Today, the four-year-old Unified Biometric System, operated by Rostelecom, exerts its own gravity on public and private organizations that have individuals’ biometric identifiers, including voice and face. It is, in fact, now part of the overarching government information system.
Russian leaders this week said the federal government will accept, but not require, identifiers in the Unified Biometric System for authentication when interacting with State Services online.
Also this week, the government’s ministry for digital development and mass media said it had opened a channel for transferring people’s biometrics collected by banks to the Unified Biometric System. Transfers can only occur with the customer’s permission.
Banks are required to use an app or text message to warn customers about the possibility of that the data will be transferred. Consumers have seven days to give their consent, or the move cannot take place.
Agreeing to the transfer gives customers access to remote services offered by other businesses that are sharing with the Unified Biometric System.
Elsewhere this week, the alternative approach of a decentralized blockchain ecosystem for decentralized finance, secured with facial authentication for biometric identity verification, was launched by Australian fintech Baxe, in partnership with Idemia and Haventec.
Russian banks were first required by that nation’s central bank to capture and store face and voice prints of customers in 2017.
Of course, banks since that year have handed over the biometric data to the Internal Affairs ministry and Federal Security Service (the Russian analog to the United States’ FBI).