FB pixel

Russia allegedly using facial recognition to preventatively detain protesters

Russia allegedly using facial recognition to preventatively detain protesters

What remained of the right to protest and express political opinions in Russia appears to be a casualty of the country’s war with Ukraine, and a new report claims that facial recognition is being used by authorities to identify people who are not accused of committing any crime for detention.

Reuters reports that hundreds of arrests of protestors have been informed by the 160,000 surveillance cameras deployed around Moscow; at least 3,000 of which are integrated with facial recognition. Many of those arrests occurred in 2021, court records show.

Authorities in Russia have now pivoted to using facial recognition to identify people who may protest in the future, and intervene on a preventative basis.

A lawyer with human rights group OVD-Info says that the practice is new. The group has counted 141 preventative detentions carried out with facial recognition in 2022.

One protestor describes a violent detention by police in Moscow to Reuters, which differed from previous times when he had been detained, in that it did not follow an incident of activism. He was not charged with an offense. Reuters suggests the detention follows a pattern.

The outlet interviewed 29 people who were stopped by police in Moscow’s metro system, which has an extensive facial recognition system for payments and security. Officers indicated to all but one that biometrics had been used to identify them. Detentions lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to 18 hours.

Biometrics developers including VisionLabs, NtechLab, Tevian and Synesis have provided algorithms to Moscow’s facial recognition system, at the street or subway level, directly or through third parties. NtechLab tells Reuters it no longer supplies the Metro system as of last year.

The report notes that VisionLabs’ and NtechLab’s solutions both use chips from U.S.-based Nvidia for fast one-to-many matches. Nvidia stopped selling to Russian companies when the U.S. imposed export controls in March, 2022, though Reuters claims to have found Russian customs records showing imports continuing through that October.

Synesis has used Intel chips with its Kipod facial recognition platform. Both American chipmakers say they have complied with all controls, and have committed to upholding human rights.

The report also notes NtechLab has won $40,000 in competitions hosted by IARPA, and the participation of Russia-linked developers in NIST’s FRVT, as other engagements that have different connotations for many than they did a few years ago.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by jailed Russian opposition politician Alexander Navalny, has called for sanctions against the CEOs and founders of the businesses above.

The founders of NtechLab have already resigned from the company, and both left Russia between late-2021 and early-2022, telling Reuters they disagreed with management and investors about projects within Russia.

Artem Kukharenko and Alexander Kabakov said they had wanted to stop NtechLab’s Russian operations and relocate the company.


This post was updated at 1:32 on March 31, 2023 to update the status of NtechLab’s founders.

Article Topics

 |   |   |   |   | 

Latest Biometrics News


The UK’s election may spell out the future of its national ID cards

Identity cards are back among the UK’s top controversial topics – thanks to the upcoming elections and its focus on…


Challenges in face biometrics addressed with new tech and research amid high stakes

Big biometrics contracts and deals were the theme of several of the stories on that drew the most interest from…


Online age verification debates continue in Canada, EU, India

Introducing age verification to protect children online remains a hot topic across the globe: Canada is debating the Online Harms…


Login.gov adds selfie biometrics for May pilot

America’s single-sign on system for government benefits and services, Login.gov, is getting a face biometrics option for enhanced identity verification…


BIPA one step closer to seeing its first major change since 2008 inception

On Thursday, a bipartisan majority in the Illinois Senate approved the first major change to Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act…


Identity verification industry mulls solutions to flood of synthetic IDs

The advent of AI-powered generators such as OnlyFake, which creates realistic-looking photos of fake IDs for only US$15, has stirred…


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Read From This Week

Featured Company

Biometrics Insight, Opinion

Digital ID In-Depth

Biometrics White Papers

Biometrics Events