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Russian Orthodox Church warns against mandatory biometric data collection

Russian Orthodox Church warns against mandatory biometric data collection

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has called upon the State Duma speaker to prevent the discrimination of people who choose not to share their biometric data with the state.

As reported by Patriarchia (in Russian), Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to Vyacheslav Volodin asking him to review the draft legislation on personal information use submitted to the Duma on 12 October.

The Church head cited the 2020 “Holy Synod Epistle” to the Orthodox community, according to which: “the use of digital identifiers,” “automated decision-making,” and the “collection of personal data, including health information” must all be overseen by public institutions. The definition would also include the church, Patriarch Kirill sustained.

In July 2022, politicians approved a bill for banks to share customer biometrics with the state.

Kirill added that the church agrees with experts suggesting no database of personal information, including biometric data, can be completely leak-proof.

“Taking into account the virtually uncontrolled collection of biometric data by commercial organizations for a number of years, the very need for state regulation of this area seems justified,” reads the letter, as automatically translated.

Because of this, the Russian Orthodox Church supports the “fundamental and unconditional right of the citizens to refuse biometric identification, with absolute guarantees of non-discrimination.”

And while the draft legislation has reportedly been discussed with the Russian Ministry of Digital Development and the dedicated Duma committee for informational policy, it has not been presented to the public for open discussion.

“Despite the urgency of the issue and the need to develop a balanced approach to the regulation of biometric data, no public hearings were held,” Kirill wrote.

“The parent community expresses the most noticeable concern, which justifies our position on the complete ban on the collection of biometric data from children.”

The letter comes weeks after Moscow’s municipal IT department pitched the creation of a centralized facial recognition data storage facility to the city politicians. The Moscow Metro uses face recognition, city surveillance systems are appearing in the provinces, to track journalists, and for children’s access to schools.

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