The iconic Moscow Metro has begun the testing of a contactless fare payment system using facial recognition tech that would allow residents of Russia’s capital to use public transport without the need to carry a card or cash.
That’s according to Anna Lapushkina, the head of the press service of the Moscow transport department, who noted that the payment innovation should be the next step in speeding up passenger traffic through the busy transport network.
Earlier this year, Metro security head Andrey Kichigin revealed that passengers would be able to pay for rides with their faces before the end of 2021.
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Now, according to Lapushkina, testing for the service has sampled up, with one line of the Metro now accepting facial payments.
“A person just looks into the camera and passes. The camera then recognizes him, and the passenger can go through the barriers,” she explained. “It really doesn’t take any time. You stop, it reads you, and lets you through right away. I think it’s super.”
She also noted that the service has already been tested by more than 60,000 Moscow Metro employees.
“The Moscow Metro is number one by the number of payment methods in the world,” she explained.
To use the FacePay system, passengers must link a Russian bank account to their biometric data, and the fare will automatically be debited.
Last year, Moscow Deputy Mayor Maxim Liksutov explained that the FacePay system works even if passengers are wearing face coverings.
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In March, online freedom advocate group Roskomsvoboda revealed concerns that the system may violate the privacy of its users, with legal department head Sarkis Darbinyan calling it a “dual-use technology.”
“Law enforcement officials, who no one controls, will have access to these [facial recognition] video cameras, so naturally there will be cases of abuse, tracking and some kind of political repression,” Darbinyan said.
The latest technology is not unique in the world, however. Similar systems are already in place in some Chinese cities, including the mega-metropolis Zhengzhou, home to over 10 million people. In 2019, the South China Morning Post revealed that nearly 200,000 commuters opted to use the technology in just a couple months.
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