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Moscow Metro biometric payment system hits 320,000 users amid surveillance fears

Moscow Metro biometric payment system hits 320,000 users amid surveillance fears
 

The Moscow Metro biometric payment system Face Pay has reached 320,000 users and is expecting to increase that number to about 500,000 people to use it by the end of the year. The news comes as the city’s subway system continues to face accusations of surveillance against activists, journalists and members of the opposition.

Maksim Liksutov, deputy mayor of Moscow and head of the Moscow Department of Transport said that the 320,000 users have made more more than 60 million passes, according to its announcement last week.

“We see the growing popularity of the Russian biometric payment system, so we connected another mode of transport to it., says Liksutov “The service has a banking level of protection and outside interference is excluded. Other payment methods will also continue to work, and the choice will always remain with the passenger.”

The subway system has also introduced two more biometric payment turnstiles for its airport railway lines, covering all Aeroexpress train lines. The turnstiles connected to the Face Pay system are located at Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports last week while the Sheremetyevo airport received its biometric payment system in January this year. That same month, officials announced plans to add 330 more turnstiles to the Face Pay system.

Activists continue to be arrested on the Metro thanks to biometric surveillance

The increase in Face Pay users comes as activists and journalists continue to be arrested while traveling Moscow’s metro lines thanks to another biometric system called Sfera. Operated by the Moscow Department of Transportation, the facial recognition surveillance system deployed through the subway’s security cameras has been used to detain 141 people last year.

The Moscow subway arrests are a part of a wider trend of biometrics being used to control dissent within the country, according to a May report by Riddle Russia.

Russian authorities regularly record protests and have arrested activists after identifying them with cameras. They have also outlined plans to install facial recognition cameras at the state border. Biometric cameras may even be used to find conscripts who evade military registration and enlistment offices, according to the report. However, those that have built surveillance systems for Moscow say that this would be technically difficult because of too many false positives.

Last year, Russia adopted a new law regulating the rules for collecting, storing and using of biometric data using a so-called Unified Biometrics System (UBS). A key recommendation in the law is forming a national coordination council that will work to develop biometrics-based digital ID and authentication technologies. Critics, however, have argued that the law would give the state monopoly over biometric data and allow access to security services.

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