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Russia uses its facial recognition system to show reporters who’s the boss

Russia uses its facial recognition system to show reporters who’s the boss

In a nation where journalists who refuse to take the Kremlin’s line are sometimes murdered, news of reporters being surveilled by Russian government facial recognition system can seem like a minor inconvenience.

But Russia’s growing CCTV networks will only spread the danger from an acute threat for several high-visibility journalists to a more formless (though no less aggressive) repression of the profession.

Thirty-eight journalists reportedly have been murdered in Russia – four of them tortured as well – between 1992 and this year.

A report by the pro-free press International Press Institute indicates that the government is following journalists critical of the Kremlin in Moscow, the site of Russia’s densest facial recognition network, and other major cities. There reportedly are 180,000 cameras in Moscow harvesting face biometrics for the state.

One such journalist, according to the institute, was flagged by Sfera, the two-year-old facial recognition system deployed in Moscow’s Metro public transportation stations. He was detained for several hours and released.

The Sfera system had matched the reporter’s live face against a social media post with a photo of him covering an anti-war protest months earlier, according to the report. Dozens of other journalists were picked up in Moscow metro stations that day, Russia Day.

The institute says the government appears to be revving up the system on national holidays to maximize its catch.

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