Moscow Court Ruling May Open Door to Biometric Surveillance

Biometrics News - Moscow Court Says Use of Facial Recognition in CCTV Cameras Doesn't Violate Constitution

The Savelovsky court of Moscow has ruled against the notion that the use of facial recognition cameras is in violation of the Russian Constitution with regards to the collection of personal data and an individual’s rights to privacy.

In a case brought forward by plaintiff Alena Popova the courts declared that her arrest in 2018 — aided by the use of CCTV cameras equipped with facial recognition technology — for a peaceful protest outside the Kremlin did not violate her rights under the Russian Constitution as she asserts.

The argument against her case, made by an official from Moscow’s Department of Information Technologies, claims that the biometric data of her likeness wasn’t used to establish her identity — that this was done by matching her image on camera to a passport or other document — and therefore her Constitutional rights were not violated.

Popova, an activist and founder of digital rights group Ethics and Technology, says that she was initially fined 20,000 rubles ($313) for violating Russia’s strict anti-protest laws, but it was only after her identity was verified by police using facial recognition that she was arrested.

“This technology is selectively applied to a certain circle of people. No one has the right to secretly collect information about a person. This is punishable by a criminal term, and then Moscow collects the information,” Popova said.

Concerns are growing in Moscow that this ruling could pave the way for a mass rollout of facial recognition-enabled CCTV cameras across the city, with some pointing to the situation in China and the growth in use of surveillance technology there, specifically in the northwestern Xinjiang region where Chinese authorities are using biometric surveillance technologies to track the movements of Muslim minorities.

In an interview with VICE News, Tanya Lokshina, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia Division with Human Rights Watch said “fears around facial recognition in Russia really are quite valid, we have seen what has been happening China, in Xinjiang for example, where the government uses this very intricate system to monitor the movement of Uighurs.”

These concerns may stem from a major investment in Chinese surveillance company Megvii made in 2017 by the Russia-China Investment Fund. Megvii was recently one of more than two-dozen Chinese entities blacklisted by the U.S. government for its role in the Xinjiang surveillance operations.

Source: VICE News

November 11, 2019 – by Tony Bitzionis