Leaked documents reveal Kremlin’s facial recognition surveillance plans

Revealing a 12 billion rouble initiative to establish a nationwide surveillance network by 2030, these documents detail the involvement of biometrics firms like NtechLab despite facing the EU sanctions.

 Face, Head, Person, Photography, Portrait, Body Part, Mouth

The documents obtained by Estonian news agency Delfi Estonia have unveiled the Kremlin’s ambitious plans to bolster its surveillance capabilities through facial recognition technology. These documents shed light on the Russian government’s 12 billion rouble initiative to establish a nationwide surveillance network by 2030.

Spearheaded by the Russian Presidential Affairs Department’s Scientific Research Computing Center (GlavNIVTs), the project aims to integrate biometrics firms like NtechLab into Russia’s surveillance infrastructure. Despite facing the EU sanctions, NtechLab and others are positioned to play a crucial role in supplying software and licenses for this initiative.

The surveillance system, which includes projects like the Video Stream Processing Service and Center, is designed to swiftly identify perceived threats and dissenting behaviour through AI-powered analysis of video feeds. However, experts caution about potential budget constraints, casting doubt on the sustainability of the Ministry of Digital Development’s centralised surveillance effort.

Why does it matter?

The revelation comes at a critical juncture, as the right to protest and express political opinions in Russia appears to have eroded amid the conflict with Ukraine. According to a new report by Reuters, authorities are using facial recognition to identify individuals not accused of any crime for preemptive detention. Human rights groups have documented a significant increase in such detentions, with hundreds informed by the integration of facial recognition with Moscow’s extensive surveillance camera network.