January 21, 2024

Under the All-Seeing Eye


Under the All-Seeing Eye
Watching you... Wikimedia Commons, Hustvedt.

Russia is hardly known for its liberal political activity, but a recent report shed new light on its growing surveillance network.

According to independent news outlet Zapiska, Russia has 18.6 million private- and government-run surveillance cameras. That's a number only exceeded by China and the U.S. The cameras are especially concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where there are 17 cameras per thousand residents and 13 per thousand residents, respectively. For comparison, there are 225,000 cameras in Moscow; New York police run "only" 15,000.

[Of course all his pales in comparison with the CTV concentration in London. With just under one million silicon eyes on the city, that adds up to one camera for every 10 residents of the British capital.]

While there are technically constitutional laws ensuring the right to privacy of Russian citizens, in practice state actors can deftly sidestep these restrictions in the name of safety. Authorities don't need permission to film in public places, so once citizens leave their homes, their movements are fair game. Computers can then use facial recognition software to track "criminals" through these cameras.

Of course, a sticky situation arises with the amorphous definition of "criminal." In Russia, surveillance has (fairly) effectively prevented mass protests and helped to arrest agitators. However, it's more recently been revealed that men who are trying to avoid being drafted for the war in Ukraine have been tracked down and detained using surveillance cameras.

We're sure glad nothing like this could ever happen in the United States.

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