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Mintsifra wants to collect biometric data of citizens without their consent: what does this mean

The new initiative of the department is designed to speed up the procedure for collecting biometric data in the Russian Federation, which is not moving very quickly.

As part of the overall digitalization, the state is gradually moving to a remote service model using biometric baths. Such data are “casts” of a person’s face and voice – the system can recognize and identify a client, regardless of his location. Biometric data of Russians has long been collected both from banks and in the Unified Biometric System (UBS). With EBS, banks can implement fast authentication for their customers using voice samples and facial photos. But against the backdrop of constant leaks of personal data, there were concerns about the reliability of the entire system.

It is because of these concerns that most Russians refuse to transfer their biometric data to the EBS. Recall that as of March 2021, out of the planned 70 million, only 164 thousand citizens gave their consent to data transfer. At the beginning of 2022, the volume of the database was about 236 thousand samples. At the same time, banks have accumulated tens of millions of data samples, but 90% of them cannot be tested for compliance with EBS standards. This means that the amount of unique data can be on the order of 10% of all impressions – or about 5 million.

It is also interesting that problems with filling appeared from the very beginning of the launch of the system for technical reasons. If only 10% of the tens of millions of data samples received meet the standard, banks will have to destroy all other samples.

To solve the problem with filling the EBS, the Ministry of Digital Transformation proposed to collect biometric data of citizens without their consent, limiting themselves to notification. The transfer is planned to be organized between banks and the system itself, and it will be possible to collect only voice samples or only face photographs. Moreover, the Ministry of Digital Development proposed to allow the EBS to store not only full biometric data, but also partial ones. For example, it will be possible to save only part of the data – but then only the bank that transferred the data to the EBS will get access to them.

The experts were not enthusiastic about the voiced initiative for a number of reasons. If consent to the processing of personal and biometric data has already become a formality for many Russians, then the situation with leaks may worsen. The initiative of the Ministry of Digital Development allows the participation of “third-party organizations” that can take part in the transfer and processing of biometrics. This can create dangerous situations where the consequences of leaks become catastrophic. Moreover, no one excludes duplication of biometric data in the system due to chaotic filling from various sources. This fact will seriously increase the load on the EBS and may lead to failures.

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