Putin’s secret weapon is facial recognition surveillance to punish dissidents

RUSSIA – The power of Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently being challenged by the biggest challenge in decades. It comes after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of a private paramilitary force named Wagner, sparked a violent but temporary rebellion against Russia. Although the insurgency was brief, its ramifications may have lasting repercussions, which could put Putin in an unstable position.

If Putin’s authority is thought to be challenged, chances are he will demonstrate his power by forcefully using his might. Few people are aware of the fact that since 2017 Vladimir Putin has been developing an advanced facial recognition surveillance system. This system is likely to be put to the test against anyone willing to challenge the views of the Russian leadership and military.

Facial recognition technology is widely available around the world, including within the Russian government. Russia has collaborated with tech companies within its borders and in Belarus to develop complex algorithms, which have allowed it to conduct population surveillance in a way that is both highly accurate and highly efficient. The irony here is that the technology, which appears to serve the purpose of restricting individual freedom, is made possible by chips produced by US companies Intel and Nvidia.

There is no evidence that either US company violated export laws, and neither company is aware of or tracks how their inventions are used. Prior to the imposition of any restrictions, it would have been simple for the Russian government to acquire all the necessary components to assemble a powerful surveillance system with which to monitor its population.

It is not uncommon for law enforcement to arrest and detain individuals from the general population who they believe may pose a threat to Kremlin power. If you are caught with a poster in your hand that says “Freedom for Russia” and “No to War”, then your identification can be used as evidence against you. OVD-Info is a human rights organization that monitors the Russian government’s repression of Russian citizens. Since May 2023, they have compiled a list of 19,700 people arrested in Russia.

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