When Anna Kuznetsova saw an ad offering access to Moscow’s face recognition cameras, all she had to do was pay 16,000 roubles ($200) and send a photo of the person she wanted spying on.
The 20-year-old – who was acting as a volunteer for a digital rights group investigating leaks in Moscow’s pervasive surveillance system – sent over a picture of herself and waited.
Two days later and her phone buzzed.
The seller had forwarded the paralegal a detailed list of all the addresses in the Russian capital where she had been spotted by cameras over the previous month, her lawyers said.
With more than 105,000 cameras, Moscow boasts one of the world’s most comprehensive surveillance systems. It became fully operational this year and authorities say it has cut crime and helped the city enforce coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
But rights activists say cameras have been used to monitor political rallies and a lack of clear rules allows for abuse.