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Moscow Metro facial recognition payments system to add 200 turnstiles, link to IDs

Moscow Metro facial recognition payments system to add 200 turnstiles, link to IDs

Moscow will extend the government-owned Face Pay biometric fare payment system to additional transport lines in the city and is considering linking the system to “social cards” such as student and pupil IDs, according to the deputy mayor of the capital, and head of the department of transport, Maxim Liksutov.

The politician says the facial recognition payment system, first announced in March last year and powered by technology from VisionLabs, NtechLab and Tevian, will be expanded in September with deployments at all stations of the Moscow Central Circle (MCC).

The service will also reportedly become available at regular river transport this year and is planned to launch on the railway connection between city airports and railway terminals (Aeroexpress), although a date for the latter has not yet been confirmed.

“In total, 76 additional Face Pay turnstiles have already been installed. We see that this is not enough,” Liksutov says. “However, after the upgrade of turnstiles in the underground, at least 200 more will be able to accept biometric payment. If necessary, we will further increase the number of such turnstiles.”

These numbers were first revealed last month when financial news publisher Finextra found marketing material from Moscow’s publicly held Metro system.

Now, Liksutov is expanding on the claims, saying Face Pay users are very satisfied with the biometric systems and their deployment. Moscow’s deputy mayor argued that 88 percent of users value the advantages of the technology and prefer this system to other payment methods.

Because of the success of the biometric payment systems, Liksutov explains that Moscow is considering the possibility of linking Face Pay to social cards, including for students and schoolchildren. Additionally, the city may also sell season passes with biometric payment options to corporate clients.

At the same time, the head of the department of transport clarifies that using the biometric payment system is entirely voluntary.

“It is an additional way of paying fares,” Liksutov says. “Biometric payment is a reliable and convenient alternative to Apple Pay and Google Pay. To speed up the operation of the turnstiles with Face Pay, we are improving the software and have already upgraded the hardware — the turnstiles now open twice as fast.”

The politician also explains that all equipment and software used are licensed and certified in compliance with the laws of the Russian Federation and that the storage of all the payment data of the Face Pay users is handled exclusively by a Russian bank.

“Face Pay is a Russian development and the property of the Government of Moscow,” Liksutov says. “Bank card transactions are processed through the NSPK national payment system, to which the Russian acquiring bank VTB is also connected.”

Further, Liksutov says all Face Pay servers are located exclusively in Russia, and that biometric payments are inherently more secure than card payments.

“Biometrics is safer and more reliable than paying fares with a bank card,” he says. “Credit cards can be stolen or lost. Time will pass before a customer blocks it, and your face cannot be ‘stolen’, so Face Pay is safer and more secure.”

Despite these reassurances and the overall convenience of the system, however, public facial recognition always comes with the risk of biometric surveillance.

In Russia, this has been a pressing issue, with the country’s government recently trying to revive a partially built biometric surveillance system for deployment in Crimea and other Russian-controlled areas bordering Ukraine.

Russian authorities also reportedly used facial recognition networks in the past to find and detain journalists.

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