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Moscow CCTVs are now Using Facial Recognition

Today in Big Brother (Большой Брат?) news: Russian capital Moscow is going to pimp up its (massive) network of CCTV cameras with sophisticated facial recognition software, with the apparent aim of tracking criminals as they roam the city’s streets.

The system was created by Russian AI company NTechLab (the owner of controversial deanonymising company FindFace) and it is being rolled out following a pilot programme.

TechCrunch spoke with the CIO of Moscow’s Department  of Information Technologies, Artem Ermolaev, who explained that the new tool will allow law enforcement to winnow out relevant information from the huge trove of footage collected by the city’s over 160,000 cameras.

“The issue is that it takes lots of hours to look through in the archive,” Ermolaev told TechCrunch. “That’s why we started the project pilot — it helps us organize the video.”

The official also explained that the software will not automatically identify whoever passes by a one of Moscow’s cameras: only two to four thousands CCTV can use the tool at once, and police will essentially use it to verify whether a well-known criminal  has taken a stroll in a certain area, or to track down a person involved in a known crime (say, a mugging near a theatre.)

In this way, NTechLab’s software will only check if that person’s face pops up in the footage from a specific part of the city and flag it up if that is the case. It seems to work well, as six people have already been reportedly arrested thanks to the new tool’s deployment.

Ermolaev was quick to underline the good sides of the technology (it could be leveraged to find lost children, or elderly people gone astray) and also to reassure that data are secure and inaccessible if not after strict controls. Still, this move will probably go down in history as one of the steps towards total privacy erosion.



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