Warning, Russia’s FSB Service to Start Collecting Biometric Data of Foreign Visitors Using New Tech

  • Russia to implement automated biometric information gathering.
  • The system will be fully operational in the beginning of 2020.
  • There are three main methods of biometric information gathering.

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation is the principal security agency of Russia and the main successor agency to the USSR’s KGB. The FSB’s main responsibilities are within the country and include counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of grave crimes and federal law violations.

Image Source: Guardinfo

The FSB is going to integrate automatic stations gathering biometric information of foreign travelers in Russia. Currently, the systems are being tested in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Russia, one of four international airports that serves the city of Moscow, and the busiest airport in Russia. The equipment is provided by the Russian Gazintech company, which specializes in information security and biometric technology.

The biometric technology is in the final testing phase and should be completed by the end of this year. It is expected that the technology will be in official use at the beginning of 2020.

Sheremetyevo Airport.

The biometric information of foreign nationals will be stored in the FSB database. Hence, Russian intelligence services will have retina, fingerprint and facial recognition scans that could be used to targeting foreign nationals at a later date. It is on par with China’s draconian verification process of its own citizens. Russia went a step further with foreign nationals. Russia is also launching electronic visas starting January 1st, 2021. The electronic visa will be issued to the travelers planning to visit Russia for up to 16 days.

An automated biometric system has a station with two doors and a biometric panel with built in sensors, which have the capability of granting or denying entry into Russia. A designated border agent will oversee the stations via remote monitoring. The traveler provides information through the interactive screen with sensors. During the testing phase the information is manually verified by the border agent. \

The system  collects and stores the data of the traveler. One of the biggest challenges of the Russian technology is to accurately store and identify travelers’ faces and finger prints.

Universally, there are three biometric methods applied: fingerprints, facial recognition, and retina. Finger print recognition has certain flaws, especially with individuals involved in physical labor or the elderly with dry skin conditions. The scanners also loose clarity with prolonged use.

The facial recognition methods can work with 2D and 3D photographic images.  Biometric characteristic must be easily measured. The quality of the measurement can be evaluated using FER (Failure to Enroll), calculating the individuals who couldn’t pass the registration (meaning the system could not build a biometric template) and real time recognition.

Image Source: Blueswan

Retina recognition requires high resolution, and proper eye positioning. Overall, a biometric  system has to be successful in identifying fraudulent information. The 2D facial recognition can be easily tricked by using the right image of the individual, whose information has already been stored in the database. Retina images can be stolen as well, however it is a more complicated process requiring a high resolution image that is applied to the contact lens. Additionally, the most safe system is 3D facial recognition.

Every biometric system can be tuned to different levels of security. The lowest setting is on the FAR (False Acceptance Rate) and the highest level is the FRR(False Rejection Rate).

Biometric technology is used to increase the accuracy of passport checking and the scanning of electronic documents. The double verification method includes information verification of the electronic passport and a visa with biometric features. The triple verification has a very small margin of error and besides the regular verification also includes a personal interview, retina, finger prints and facial recognition.

The question remains: will western nations issue warnings in regards to the consequences of the gathering of biometric information and the possible ramifications of that information being stored on Russian servers, including what it could be used for in the future?

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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