Cam­eras are watch­ing Moscow quar­an­tined

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

MOSCOW: A vast and con­tentious net­work of fa­cial recog­ni­tion cam­eras keep­ing watch over Moscow is now play­ing a key role in the bat­tle against the spread of the coro­n­avirus in Russia. The city rolled out the tech­nol­ogy just be­fore the epi­demic reached Russia, ig­nor­ing protests and le­gal com­plaints over so­phis­ti­cated state sur­veil­lance. Since last month, thou­sands of Mus­covites have been con­fined to their homes for 14 days of com­pul­sory quar­an­tine af­ter re­turn­ing from virushit coun­tries, be­ing in con­tact with those in­fected or di­ag­nosed with mild symp­toms.

Po­lice have logged their de­tails and warned them that sneak­ing out into the city of 16 mil­lion res­i­dents and daily vis­i­tors could lead to a five-year jail term or de­por­ta­tion for for­eign­ers. “We are con­stantly check­ing that this reg­u­la­tion is be­ing ob­served, in­clud­ing through the use of au­to­mated fa­cial recog­ni­tion sys­tems,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote in his blog in Fe­bru­ary.

The Rus­sian cap­i­tal al­ready had a tight net­work of 170,000 se­cu­rity cam­eras, set up in streets and metro sta­tions through­out the city over the past decade. Around 100,000 have now been linked to ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tems that can iden­tify peo­ple be­ing filmed. The re­main­ing cam­eras are due to be con­nected soon. Moscow po­lice said last week that the cam­eras that are linked have al­lowed them to iden­tify al­most 200 peo­ple who broke quar­an­tine rules.

As well as the cam­eras, Russia has said it is draw­ing on an ar­ray of tech­nol­ogy to fight the virus, in­clud­ing telemedici­ne con­sul­ta­tions, the real-time mon­i­tor­ing of su­per­mar­ket shelves and iden­ti­fy­ing and re­mov­ing false news sto­ries from so­cial me­dia. Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last week toured a hi-tech cen­tre set up to mon­i­tor the virus sit­u­a­tion and Russia’s re­sponse. The coun­try, as of Mon­day, had re­ported 438 coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions, most of them in Moscow. One per­son who was in­fected has died but of­fi­cials are not link­ing the death to the virus.

600 neigh­bors

Moscow City Hall has boasted that the net­work of cam­eras is a par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive tool. Sobyanin has said that the au­thor­i­ties have con­tacts and work ad­dresses for 95 per­cent of those quar­an­tined af­ter re­turn­ing from high­risk coun­tries. “We’ve iden­ti­fied where they are,” said the mayor, who heads a work­ing group on com­bat­ting the virus set up by Putin.Last month on his blog he praised the ef­fi­ciency of the fa­cial recog­ni­tion sys­tem with a story of a Chi­nese wo­man who tested pos­i­tive soon af­ter ar­rival and was hos­pi­talised. Her flat­mate was quar­an­tined but se­cu­rity cam­eras filmed her walk­ing out­side and meet­ing a male friend. The mayor added that the au­thor­i­ties swiftly gath­ered con­tacts of more than 600 of the wo­man’s neigh­bors and even her taxi driver from the air­port. Fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy was first tested dur­ing the 2018 World Cup in Russia be­fore go­ing fully on­line in Jan­uary, just be­fore the pan­demic hit.

MOSCOW: A pic­ture shows a sur­veil­lance cam­era in an un­der­ground pas­sage in Moscow. A vast and con­tentious net­work of fa­cial-recog­ni­tion cam­eras keep­ing watch over Moscow is now play­ing a key role in slow­ing the rapid spread of coro­n­avirus in Russia. — AFP

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