February 21, 2020
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Russia plans national biometric database starting next year

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
A person uses a sensor for biometric identification on a smartphone.

Russia will get a countrywide biometric database for financial services starting next summer, the central bank said.

The system will expand access to banking by letting people open accounts without having to visit a branch and is a key milestone in digitizing financial services, the Bank of Russia said in a statement. The regulator said that data would only be stored with individuals’ consent. Legal changes needed for the system passed this month.

State-owned Rostelecom has been selected to run the database, which will collect personal data including images of faces, voice samples and, eventually, irises and fingerprints. Facial-recognition technology has been gaining consumer acceptance around the world, with Apple’s latest iPhone using it to unlock the device. In Russia, the authorities and government-linked companies are leading the charge.

Moscow claims it has the largest centralized surveillance network in the world, and uses facial-recognition technology to help police the city. Sberbank, the state-owned lender that holds nearly half of retail deposits in Russia, last month acquired a 25 percent stake in VisionLabs as a first step toward building a biometric platform to identify people through face, voice and retina recognition technologies.

Rostelecom’s board chairman is Sergei Ivanov, a former KGB agent who was President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff until last year and is among those sanctioned by the U.S. for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The law will take effect six months after it is officially published. The database could also be expanded for use by microfinance organizations and government services, the central bank said.

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