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20 Jul 2020

Anastasiia Zlobina, Human Rights Watch (USA)

Russia: Govt. uses facial recognition technology to identify and arrest peaceful protesters

Moscow’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology Challenged, 8 July 2020

Activist Alyona Popova and politician Vladimir Milov have lodged a complaint over Russia’s use of facial recognition technology during protests to the European Court of Human Rights.

Their lawyer, Kirill Koroteyev, said this would be the first case challenging the use of facial recognition technology to conduct mass surveillance in the court’s practice.

On September 29, 2019, at least 20,000 people, including Popova and Milov, took part in an authorized rally in Moscow in solidarity with those arrested and charged for their participation in peaceful protests. The demonstrations were triggered by the exclusion of independent candidates from the Moscow city legislature elections.

According to Popova and Milov, all the participants of the September protest had to pass through metal detectors equipped with CCTV cameras installed at eye level. The Moscow government announced plans shortly before the protests to use facial recognition technology at large public gatherings. The applicants believe that this was the first case of the Moscow authorities using facial recognition technology to gather data about protestors.