Using technology from N-Tech.Lab the city will become a world leader in public surveillance.
The city of Moscow recently announced that they will update their pre-existing network of 170 000 surveillance cameras to implement a new facial recognition tool.
The city has been using CCTV technology for public surveillance since 2012. Videos stored from these cameras were held in a database for up to five days. The facilities could only store 20 million hours’ worth of videos at a time.
According to the head of the department of information technology, Artem Ermolaev, the facial recognition is being implemented to address a lack of manpower in their workforce. Ermolaev stated that these huge numbers of video hours were impossible to capture and process by police officers alone. The city of Moscow is now looking to facial recognition technology to address this.
Moscow already boasts the largest CCTV network in the world. The United Kingdom is also known for implementing this surveillance system. While exact numbers are hard to come by, the entire United Kingdom has an estimated 70 000 government-operated cameras, while the city of Moscow alone has 170 000.
The facial recognition technology was created by Russian start-up N-Tech.Labs.Ltd. According to Ermolaev, the system will cross-reference a digital fingerprint based on images from the Interior Ministry’s database against images captured by the surveillance cameras.
Earlier this year, during a two-month trial, six criminals were apprehended using this system.
The accuracy of the facial recognition technology has also been confirmed by the US Department of Commerce as well as the University of Washington. The Moscow-based start-up previously released an app, FindFace, that became hugely popular in Russia. Any user could take a picture of a stranger, and the app would go to work matching the picture against a huge database of pictures found on Russia’s most prominent social media network, VKontakte. The app had a 70% success rate.
Facial recognition has slowly been infiltrating society. The software has been become increasingly accurate, and increasingly accepted by consumers. The Windows 10 operating system can be unlocked using facial recognition, Samsung includes a similar feature in its smartphones, and more recently, Apple revealed its new feature, FaceID, in its latest iPhone X.
Employing this new facial recognition won’t come cheap. Currently, the city of Moscow is already spending the equivalent of $86 million per year to maintain their CCTV network. If they do want to implement facial recognition technology in all of the city’s 170 000 cameras, this cost will triple.
To be more cost efficient, facial recognition technology will only be implemented in the areas where it is most needed, according to Ermolaev.
This practice while strictly legal in Russia raises several concerns for the inhabitants of Moscow. Mikhail Zuyzin, an IT expert at the Academy of Information Systems expressed concern not only regarding every citizen’s privacy but also the fact that this system might be vulnerable to third-party hacking.
According to Ermolaev, the information stored will be accessible only to a limited number of authorized users.