Moscow officials have tried to calm concerns about privacy invasion by insisting that the images and data collected are “securely encrypted.’’ Roskomsvoboda, though, said they have uncovered evidence that the system is porous, vulnerable to intruders who can use the data and images for criminal purposes.
Privacy advocates are pushing for a more transparent system of control for this and other advanced, and often intrusive, technologies. “We need to be sure that all these innovations are used to help the people, not harm them,’’ said Mr. Koslyuk.
Face Pay is part of a broader set of efforts in the city to institute technological solutions. Moscow is undoubtedly Russia’s “smartest” city, not least because it is the nation’s capital, and a focus of government attention. Its 12.5 million people make it the second most populous city in Europe — and it is growing. Between 2002 and 2010, while Russia’s population decreased by 1.2 percent, Moscow’s grew by 10.9 percent. And the average wage in the capital is almost double the national average.
The capital also gets royal treatment from the federal government. In 2019, Moscow’s urban renewal budget equaled that of the rest of the country.
“Moscow has the power in terms of finance and budgets,’’ said Sergei Kamolov, a professor at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “Moscow is in the avant-garde, a test case for all different kinds of systems.’’
Two years ago, Russia adopted its own system for ranking its “smart cities,” measuring what is called their “I.Q. level.” This provides benchmarks for cities to measure progress in putting modern techniques and digital services in place for their population. Mr. Kamolov said these are useful tools to pressure local officials to meet targets set in a national “Smart Cities” program.
Mr. Kamolov, who is member of a working group on the “Smart Cities” program, cautions that its ideas and technologies are not easily duplicated from city to city. Nor, he said, do fancy new technologies necessarily have an impact on the citizens’ quality of life. “It seems to me that ‘Smart Cities’ is a deep marketing concept,’’ he said in a telephone interview.