Contactless payment systems have quickly become an everyday part of our lives. You can now pay for your subway tickets with your face as of this week. This new facial recognition payment system was launched in Russia. There are concerns that authorities may use it as surveillance tools.
Moscow announced Friday the launch of Face Pay. This new facial recognition payment system will be available in all its more than 240 subway stations. Face Pay users can use the camera at select turnstiles to pay their subway fare without using a card, phone or cash. Maxim Liksutov (the deputy mayor responsible for transportation) stated in a press release that the city's transport system was unique worldwide.
Liksutov said that adding Face Pay does not mean that other payment methods will be eliminated. He said that Face Pay is an option.
According to Liksutov's statement, there are no comparables to Face Pay anywhere in the world in terms of quality or ease of use for passengers. Face Pay is not a different way to pay for travel. Passenger can choose to connect to the service only if he finds this payment method convenient. You can't pay with any other payment method.
Face Pay requires riders to link their photo, debit or credit card and transit card to the service via the Moscow subway app. Although it sounds simple, Moscow authorities advised interested users to register early as the process can take several hours.
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Privacy activists are concerned that Russia may be using facial recognition to gain more control over its people. This has been the alarming reaction to Face Pay's launch. Stanislav Shakirov (founder of Roskomsvoboda's digital rights and freedom group Roskomsvoboda) told the Guardian that Face Pay must be transparent in its operation.
We are closer to authoritarian states like China, which have mastered facial tech. He said that the Moscow metro is a government entity and that all data could end up in the hands the security services.
Moscow has, on its part, assured the public that all data will be encrypted and that cameras at the turnstiles only read biometric data. Norton explained that facial recognition biometric data is used to analyze facial contours and measure the unique facial patterns of an individual.
It is also concerning that it is being used in Russia, where Human Rights Watch recently stated that Russia was increasing its use of facial recognition technology without any regulation, oversight or data protection measures. According to the organization, authorities have already charged innocent people with criminal acts based on facial recognition technology. It is also used to prosecute peaceful protestors and political opponents.
Moscow officials predict that Face Pay will be used by 10 to 15% of subway riders in the next three years. The city will expand its Face Pay turntiles if there is more demand.