Moscow adds facial recognition payment system to more than 240 metro stations

Officials claim that Moscow launched Face Pay Friday. It is a facial recognition system for payment, which was implemented in over 240 Mosmetro stations. This is the largest global use of facial recognition technology (via The Guardian). This service uses stored photos to validate metro payments. This is a privacy concern considering the past use of facial recognition technology in Russia by law enforcement.
Metro riders must upload a picture and connect their bank cards and metro cards to Face Pay. Once everything is uploaded, you can simply look at the camera located above the turnstiles and make it on time for your next train. Moscow authorities anticipate that 10 to 15% of riders will use Face Pay frequently in the next two-to three years. The hope is that less time spent swiping and paying rides will result in shorter waits and shorter lines.

It's all good and dandy, at least conceptually. Amazon One, the US shipping giant's palm recognition tech, is currently promoting the relative convenience that biometric recognition can bring to payment systems. According to The Guardian, Moscow's Department of Information Technology claims that photographs taken through official channels will not be handed over to police and instead are encrypted in the GIS ETSHD (Moscows Unified Data Storage and Processing Center).

It is easy to see the metro system becoming a valuable surveillance tool.

However, this has not convinced Russian privacy advocates. This is a dangerous step in Russia's attempt to control its population. Stanislav Shakirov (founder of digital rights group Roskomsvoboda), told The Guardian that we need full transparency about how this application will actually work in practice. Moscow metro is a government entity, and all data could end up in the hands the security services.

Shakirov has every reason to be worried. Moscow's implementation of facial recognition in its network of over 10,000 CCTV cameras is more frightening than it seems. The system could be hijacked by hackers for as low as $200, which is worse than any abuse that may occur by Moscow's law enforcement. This is the real danger of using facial recognition in more areas of city life. Not only could the government track citizens' movements better, but the system itself can be easily hijacked by hackers for as little as $200.