The Moscow metro has officially launched its promised naked payments system at more than 240 stations across the city. The new Face Pay system eliminates the need for cash, cards, and phones and allows residents to pay their transit fares with only a facial recognition scan.
To use the service, interested residents will first need to download the metro service’s mobile app. They will then be able to use the app to submit a photo, and the app will link that photo to their metro card and their payment information in their account. After that, Face Pay will be able to process a payment when the user presents their face at a participating station.
The metro is expecting to see relatively modest adoption rates, and believes that 15 percent of passengers will use Face Pay on a regular basis within three years. The organization nevertheless believe that that will translate to significant efficiency gains for a busy metro system that already handles more than 6 million passengers every single day. In that regard, Face Pay will improve the flow of traffic during peak commuting hours.
However, the new system is not without its detractors. The authorities have claimed that all biometric data will be encrypted and stored in secure processing centers, and that only key ministry staff will have access to that information. Unfortunately, Moscow has struggled with privacy in the past. The city started rolling out a controversial surveillance network back in 2020, and soon came under fire after privacy advocates uncovered a pay-for-play service that allowed regular civilians to purchase unrestricted access to the law enforcement system.
In doing so, the activists learned that the city was still storing biometric data that should have been deleted. The Moscow surveillance system now has more than 175,000 cameras, and uses facial recognition technology from NtechLab, which has also been criticized for running a facial recognition app that enabled stalking on social media.
“This is a dangerous new step in Russia’s push for control over its population. We need to have full transparency on how this application will work in practice,” said Roskomsvoboda founder Stanislav Shakirov. Roskomsvoboda is a privacy watchdog that advocates for digital rights and freedom of information in Russia.
Moscow is pitching Face Pay as the first large-scale system of its kind, though other jurisdictions have trialed similar technology in the past. Most notably, the Shenzen Metro in China trialed a ticketing system with facial recognition back in 2019.
Source: The Guardian
October 18, 2021 – by Eric Weiss