December 3, 2023

One Posting Everyday

Facial recognition serving to Putin curb dissent with assistance from US tech

4 min read

32-year-old civil rights activist Alexander Zharov had simply entered a Moscow metro station on August 22, 2022, when law enforcement officials stopped him, instructed him he was on a needed listing and escorted him away.

“When the police approached me within the metro for the primary time and demanded that I comply with them I requested them to call the rationale for detention and their calls for. One of many law enforcement officials justified this by saying that I used to be on the needed listing,” Zharov.

He had beforehand been fined and jailed for protesting, and had additionally been detained within the metro station on Could 9 and June 12. Reuters reviewed a video he shared of him coming into the metro station on August 22, then being stopped by police. “It is scary,” he mentioned. “Now I do know that the subway is usually a harmful place and a spot of potential detention.”

To keep away from additional consideration from the police, Zharov moved to Germany by way of Khazakzstan.

​It’s no secret that the Russian authorities makes use of facial recognition to keep watch over residents. In 2017, Moscow’s mayor’s workplace introduced that the Russian capital had launched one of many world’s largest video surveillance networks, with 160,000 cameras, together with greater than 3,000 linked to a facial recognition system.

A Reuters evaluate of greater than 2,000 court docket circumstances reveals these cameras have performed an essential function within the arrests of a whole bunch of protesters. Most of those individuals had been detained in 2021 after they joined anti-government demonstrations, court docket data present. However after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, authorities started utilizing facial recognition to stop individuals from protesting within the first place, in response to interviews with greater than two dozen detainees and data gathered by a Russian monitoring group. Facial recognition is now serving to police to establish and sweep up the Kremlin’s opponents as a safety measure, at any time when they select.

Western expertise has aided the crackdown. The facial recognition system in Moscow is powered by algorithms produced by one Belarusian firm and three Russian companies. No less than three of the businesses have used chips from U.S. companies Nvidia Corp or Intel Corp along side their algorithms, Reuters discovered. There isn’t any suggestion that Nvidia or Intel have breached sanctions.

Reuters additionally discovered that the Russian and Belarusian corporations participated in a U.S. facial-recognition take a look at program, aimed toward evaluating rising applied sciences and run by an offshoot of the Division of Commerce. One of many companies acquired $40,000 in prize cash awarded by an arm of U.S. intelligence.

Approached for remark, Nvidia and Intel mentioned they halted all shipments to Russia in March 2022 after america tightened export restrictions. They added that they can not at all times understand how their merchandise are used.

Reuters interviewed 29 individuals who had been stopped by police in Moscow metro stations. All however one mentioned they understood from officers that they had been flagged for detention by facial recognition.

On Could 9, a police officer approached Sergei Pinchuk, a 27-year-old courier, seconds after he entered the Moscow metro. Pinchuk, who wore blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, that day, mentioned police had a handheld digital system with about 10 photographs of him, all seemingly taken by metro safety cameras on totally different dates.

At a close-by police station, a detective pushed him into the wall, grabbed him by the neck and referred to as him names, he mentioned.

A month prior, Pinchuk had stood alone in entrance of the Kremlin constructing holding an indication with the phrases ‘353 Prison Code of Russia. Cease Putin,’ referencing a Russian legislation that claims waging an aggressive conflict is punishable by as much as 20 years in jail. The detective requested about this. “He mentioned ‘why did you try this? It is a exhausting time for our nation’,” mentioned Pinchuk, who had been arrested, charged and fined for the protest. The detective additionally threatened to jail him for years and create issues for his household, he mentioned.

In mid-August, Pinchuk and his good friend climbed a cell tower in his city Naro-Fominsk, southwest of Moscow, and positioned a Ukrainian flag on the high. The subsequent day, whereas Pinchuk was visiting his dad and mom, his brother referred to as and knowledgeable him that police had stopped by Pinchuk’s dwelling and had been in search of him. A number of hours later, Pinchuk was on the airport, catching the primary flight he may discover to Tbilisi, Georgia. Later police referred to as his mom and texted his mates asking the place he was. He determined to relocate to america the place he mentioned he felt safer. He now lives in Seattle and is in search of asylum.

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