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Resin Face Planter Flower Pots Scary Funny Ghost Clown Head Planter Pots Unique Zombie Vase Desktop Decor Halloween Horror Movie Planters for Garden Sculptures & Statues Decorations (7.4*5.9inch, A)
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- Material: Succulent gothic planter is made of high quality resin material, unique planter with fine workmanship, rich colors, 3D molds to make the decoration more realistic, the material is durable, corrosion-resistant, longer service life. Halloween face planters pots head planter suitable for both indoor and outdoor display, it will be a nice addition to your home decor and gardening essentials.
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Material: Resin Size: 19cm*15cm/7.4inch*5.9inch Packing list: 1pcs*Face Planters Pots Halloween Decoration: Resin face planter flower pots, succulent planters, face planters pots design is funny and lovely. It is suitable for indoor and outdoor decoration. The greenman pot can also be put on the desk, dining table and living room as a flowerpot of succulent plants. It can also be used as decoration and pen container storage box. unique planters, halloween horror movie planters, scary face skull zombie planter. Halloween Theme Design: Halloween zombie head flower pot is designed into 4 different skull shape, full of Halloween atmosphere, suitable for haunted houses, graveyard scenes, Halloween parties, ghost theme parties and so on, crafted with compactness face shapes give you the vivid and adorable tabletop sculpture, succulents holder, artificial flower display holder.
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Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California to southern Nevada and western Arizona.
Desert washes and rocky slopes below 2,500 feet.
Translucent, cream-colored to yellowish flowers bloom February through April. The 1-1/2 inch flower has pink-to-purple dots on the inside surface of 5 ragged lobes which form a cup. Lower petal has a reddish-purple spot with 2 bright yellow stamens curving upward over it.
Like the snapdragon and penstemon, the ghost flower is a member of the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). It is an erect annual which grows 4 to 16 inches high. It has long, hairy, light-green leaves that are elliptical to lanceolate, and grow up to 4 inches long.
The ghost flower derives its name from the ghostly translucency of its flowers.
-- A.R Royo
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Mojave Desert Wildflowers - This book is the standard by which all other wildflower books are measured. The author, Jon Mark Stewart, has combined super photography with concise information. This book has an entire color page for each wildflower covered, with a discussion of the wildflower. 210 pages with 200 color photos. More...
What's Blooming Now - Check the Wildflower Reports
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Dispensary & marijuana reviews.
- Reviewed 10/12/12
SBJ Organics 'W Blanket'
Dispensary:, out for the count.
Three to five sprays of this stuff will hit you real fast. I'm guessing this is all indica flower , and sugar trim. This particular batch was a replacement that Christian was nice enough to offer me. From what I recall, on top of the flower and trim, he also used some super potent shatr. Anyway, this is one of the most powerful indica based products that I have ever used in my entire life. It will hit you within 30 seconds, and I have passed out for several hours on many occasion. I consider this the most cost effective sleeping aid in existence. I only use it once or twice a week, and it has lasted at least 3 months. If you use it multiple days in a row, you will build a tolerance. Take a break for a few days or a week, and your tolerance should be back to normal. I can't wait to try the sativa based Euphoria blend. Thank you very much Sadie and Christian!
- Reviewed 8/1/12
Another super potent strain that hits me like a ton of bricks. This strain hits me real hard. Hours of my life have disappeared after hitting one too many of these. I recommend this one for evenings, movies, or days off.
Candy Bomb is no joke. This ultra potent strain is one of my personal favorites. For me personally, it hits me like a strong indica, but I also feel some sativa like effects. I highly recommend trying this stuff next time in comes around.
- Reviewed 5/15/12
Sadey O's PB Cups
Super tasty & super potent.
I have tried Sadey's Peanut Butter Cups twice now, and each time they wreck me in the best possible way. The first time I tried one, I only ate half, waited about one hour and ate the other half. I had a great body and head high that lasted for hours. I really don't remember much of that day, other than I was loving the way I was feeling. The second time I ate the whole cup at once, and it hit me way harder. I got that tingly rush of anticipation similar to reaching the top of a roller coaster, then free falling into the abyss of awesomeness. If you decide to eat a whole one at once, watch out. I did lose my balance a few times and had to grab hold of something to make sure I didnt fall over and crush my cat. :D Thanks again guys, you are awesome!!!
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Amazing the best shatter in the world.
Hands down, I receive the best customer service from these awesome people. All the flowers I have received are picture perfect, and the concentrates are in a class all its own. I ate one of the peanut butter cups, and I have no idea what happened. That delicious treat wrecked me, in the best possible way. The shatter is so amazing, words cannot describe it. You can feel the love and time that goes into each shatter. So far I have tried 3 of the shatters(just got 4 new ones, thanks!!!), and every single one has such a unique taste and high. Don't trip on the price. The shatter is so powerful, very little is needed. Thanks for everything ladies and gents!
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Why Moscow has so many rings – and what you should know about them
Moscow is surely beautiful... and rich with rings.
If you take a bird’s eye view of Moscow you’ll soon notice that Russia’s capital looks like a giant dartboard, with rings of different size spreading from its “bull’s eye” – the Kremlin – like ripples in a pond. Indeed, Moscow is all about rings and knowing what they are about really helps one to navigate the city and understand its soul.
But first things first – how come the Russians built this ancient city in concentric circles?
Once, the Kremlin was more than just a sight: that fortress actually saved people's lives during many wars.
Many Moscow streets that link the rings seem quite chaotic, with their sudden twists and turns. If you don’t have a map, Russia’s capital is rather difficult to navigate compared to New York or St. Petersburg, where streets cross one another at right angles, forming a net of urban corridors.
Nevertheless, Moscow has an excuse – while Muscovites were building it in the 14th-16th centuries, they were aware of the threat of the city being putting to the torch by invading Tatars or fellow Russians, rather than about future tourists getting lost. Attacking armies sacked Moscow in 1238, 1382 and 1571, each time burning most of it to the ground.
Fortress within a fortress
That’s where the rings came from: in the past, they were walls protecting Moscow. Kremlin was the first level of defense, then there were walls surrounding Bely Gorod (White Town), where the nobility lived, erected in 1585-1593. The city grew as the Russian state became more powerful. As increasing numbers of people lived beyond the city walls another defensive wall was built, the so-called Zemlyanoy Gorod (the Ground Town) between 1692-1695.
Once vital defensive positions were made redundant as the city grew and the menace of invasion diminished. The authorities tore down crumbling, decrepit fortifications, but the roads that had skirted them remained, forming rings around the city center.
“Such a structure is quite typical for European cities, built with the purpose of protecting city’s fortress,” explains historian and cultural expert, Petr Mazaev. “But it didn’t persist in any major European cities except Moscow, which remained untouched by 18th-century experiments in urban planning.”
Bely Gorod fortress turned into the Boulevard Ring, Zemlyanoy Gorod – into the Garden Ring and that’s how the center of Moscow was formed. As the city continued to grow in all directions, the ring remains the most important element of infrastructure ever since. What are the most important rings of 21st century Moscow?
1. The Boulevard Ring
The Boulevard ring is always picturesque, even though the loud city surrounds it.
Length: 9 km (5.6 miles)
The first ring of Moscow, technically, is not a ring but a half-circle embracing the territory of the old Bely Gorod, which excluded land across the Moscow River. After the fortress walls were demolished, trees were planted along the roads to make the view more picturesque.
As for today, going all the way down the “ring” – from the Prechistenskiye Vorota square to the Yauzskiye Vorota square – is quite a long walk (taking around an hour and a half) but it is definitely an enchanting stroll, particularly when the weather is nice.
2. The Garden Ring
The Garden Ring doesn't have many (or any) gardens but it always is busy.
Length: 15,6 km (9.7 miles)
Moscow is complicated: the Boulevard Ring is not a ring but actually has boulevards; the Garden Ring is a ring but there are no gardens here. In Tsarist times, householders were obliged to plant front gardens – but Soviet authorities got rid of them in the 1930s. Instead, they widened the carriageway turning the Garden Ring into what it is now: a circle of massive wide avenues around the center of Moscow.
Urban legends hold that those who have an apartment inside the Garden Ring are the richest and most successful people in all Russia, the true crème de la crème: they own real estate in the most expensive neighborhoods of the most expensive city in the country. So ironic phrases such as “it’s a problem of people inside the Garden Ring” is a Russian version of “first-world problems”.
E.g.: “My friend complained about too many similar cafes in his district. That can bother only people inside the Garden Ring!”
3. The Moscow Automobile Ring Road (MKAD)
The MKAD used to border Moscow and lands outside it, so it has to be a really BIG road.
Length: 108,9 km (67.7 miles)
Opened in 1962, this circle embraced the entire city of the time within its boundaries. Now Moscow has spread over a much greater area, but the MKAD remains a key transport artery. It’s all but indispensable when you need to get from one city outskirt to another without going through the center.
Also, the MKAD is another symbolic circle – jokes usually apply to it as to the “border” between Moscow and Russia, even though the MKAD doesn’t define the city border anymore. Muscovites mock the “mystical land” of Zamkadye (“land outside the MKAD”) as an unknown, uncivilized wilderness and ironically ask: “Is there life outside the MKAD?” The rest of Russia, in return, bashes mean and arrogant Muscovites. The fight is never-ending, but it’s more about stereotypes and humor than any serious conflict.
Bonus: other rings
The Moscow Central Circle railway road is quite new in the city but still very useful for many Muscovites.
If you thought that Muscovites had limited their love of rings to just three, you’d be wrong. There is also the 35,1 km-long (21.8 mile-long) Third Ring – the youngest of the gyratory highways, completed in 2003. It was a controversial project, fueling debate over the compulsory demolitions and widening of residential streets, opposed by many.
Also, an important transport artery is the Circle line (brown) of the Moscow metro, one of the oldest metro lines that links seven of Moscow’s nine railway stations and 10 other metro lines. Each of this line’s 12 stations is truly a pearl of Stalinist architecture: check out our list .
And there are two more rings: the new Moscow Central Circle – a 33.5 mile-long urban railway that opened in 2016 to link the city’s industrial outskirts and a current construction project - the Large Circle Line of metro - due to be completed by 2022. It seems that Moscow, much like Sauron from J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, just can’t get enough of rings.
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In Moscow’s Technological Advances, a ‘Double-Edged Sword’
The latest example is Face Pay, which replaces a Metro card with facial recognition. It may be advanced, but activists are sounding the alarm on privacy issues.
By Celestine Bohlen
The Moscow Metro — a world-class marvel of efficient mass transportation since it opened in 1935 — made headlines last month with a very 21st-century innovation: a payment system that doesn’t require passengers to produce a ticket, a transit card, a smartphone or a contactless bank card. All they have to do is show their face.
By Oct. 15, the facial recognition system, called Face Pay, was up and running at about 240 stations on the Moscow Metro, a sprawling and constantly expanding system famous for its on-time track record and its grandiose and ornate stations.
Moscow city officials were quick to tout the system’s latest technological innovation, one of several over the last decade. “There are no analogues of Face Pay in terms of quality and ease of use for a passenger anywhere in the world,” said Maksim Liksutov, deputy mayor for transport.
To activate Face Pay, passengers must connect their photo with a bank card and the Metro’s Troika, or transit card, via a special mobile app. Once connected, a camera at the turnstiles identifies their faces (even with masks on) and opens the gates. In theory, it should take two to three seconds for a passenger to clear the turnstile, easing the crush of people at peak rush hours.
It is one of the most visible — and controversial — of the city’s projects to modernize its services, one that takes full advantage of advancing biometric technology and the skills of a new generation of Russian computer engineers. “The technology is new and very complex, we will continue to work on improving it,’’ said Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, in a statement.
But digital privacy activists in Russia were quick to raise the alarm, noting that the new system is not just about improving service on the Moscow Metro. “It is a good pretext to put cameras at the turnstiles,’’ said Artyom Koslyuk, a director at Roskomsvoboda, a digital rights group based in Moscow. “This will allow them to perfect the algorithms used for the recognition of faces.’’
According to Mr. Koslyuk, Moscow ranks third in the world for the most surveillance on streets and public transport, with some 200,000 cameras placed around the city and on the Metro to help police identify criminals and prevent crime. Russian police have already used facial recognition to find and arrest demonstrators who participated in peaceful opposition protests.
The two other countries that have gone ahead with facial recognition payment systems are China and Belarus, where privacy rights are also of little concern to the government. (In Belarus, the facial recognition system on the Minsk metro is called Look and Go.) In contrast, the European Parliament voted last month in favor of a nonbinding resolution to ban use of facial recognition technology in public places for police purposes.
Moscow officials have tried to calm concerns about privacy invasion by insisting that the images and data collected are “securely encrypted.’’ Roskomsvoboda, though, said they have uncovered evidence that the system is porous, vulnerable to intruders who can use the data and images for criminal purposes.
Privacy advocates are pushing for a more transparent system of control for this and other advanced, and often intrusive, technologies. “We need to be sure that all these innovations are used to help the people, not harm them,’’ said Mr. Koslyuk.
Face Pay is part of a broader set of efforts in the city to institute technological solutions. Moscow is undoubtedly Russia’s “smartest” city, not least because it is the nation’s capital, and a focus of government attention. Its 12.5 million people make it the second most populous city in Europe — and it is growing. Between 2002 and 2010, while Russia’s population decreased by 1.2 percent, Moscow’s grew by 10.9 percent. And the average wage in the capital is almost double the national average.
The capital also gets royal treatment from the federal government. In 2019, Moscow’s urban renewal budget equaled that of the rest of the country.
“Moscow has the power in terms of finance and budgets,’’ said Sergei Kamolov, a professor at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “Moscow is in the avant-garde, a test case for all different kinds of systems.’’
Two years ago, Russia adopted its own system for ranking its “smart cities,” measuring what is called their “I.Q. level.” This provides benchmarks for cities to measure progress in putting modern techniques and digital services in place for their population. Mr. Kamolov said these are useful tools to pressure local officials to meet targets set in a national “Smart Cities” program.
Mr. Kamolov, who is member of a working group on the “Smart Cities” program, cautions that its ideas and technologies are not easily duplicated from city to city. Nor, he said, do fancy new technologies necessarily have an impact on the citizens’ quality of life. “It seems to me that ‘Smart Cities’ is a deep marketing concept,’’ he said in a telephone interview.
In recent years, Russia has put a major nationwide effort into its e-government services. Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Russia developed a system of e-visas, allowing tourists to come into the country for a limited time and for limited purpose. And like many countries, it has developed a popular online government portal — known as Gosuslugi , a one-stop website where citizens can retrieve documents, pay fines and make appointments. In a 2020 United Nations e-government survey , Russia’s services ranked 36th out of 193 countries.
In this, as in other areas, Moscow leads the way. More Muscovites use Gosuslgi proportionately than any other region of Russia — not surprising given its concentration of young, educated and computer literate people. But other regions are stepping up efforts to catch up, by offering special courses for computer literacy , especially for the elderly.
Moscow and six other regions were also used as a test case for Russia’s experiment with online voting in last September’s parliamentary elections. The system was challenged by democracy protesters, who described it as a “black box” that allowed the government to fiddle with the vote. Setting aside the contested results — a huge caveat, to be sure — online voting did its job, at least on a technical level.
Moscow has introduced other digital services in health care, in schools and in the legal system, but transportation continues to receive a hefty share of the city’s modernization budget.
According to Mr. Kamolov, Moscow has the largest fleet of electronic buses in Europe while the Metro — which now moves about six million passengers on weekdays (down from more than eight million in the pre-Covid era) — still commands a large portion of public funds: $27 billion for expansion and improvement from 2011 to 2022 , most of it for expansion but some of it undoubtedly for the facial recognition system that is now expected to be introduced in other Russian cities.
At Roskomsvoboda, Mr. Koslyuk says the key to introducing advanced digital services that depend on personal data is trust. ‘‘We need to be sure there are controls,’’ he said. “These improvements can be a double-edged sword.”
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Inside Safe City, Moscow’s AI Surveillance Dystopia
Sergey Vyborov was on his way to the Moscow Metro’s Aeroport station last September when police officers stopped him. The 49-year-old knew that taking the metro could spell trouble. During a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, police had fingerprinted and photographed him. He’d already been detained four times in 2022. But he was rushing to his daughter’s birthday, so he took a chance.
Vyborov wasn’t arrested that day, but the police informed him that he was under surveillance through Sfera, one of Moscow’s face recognition systems, for participating in unsanctioned rallies. Considered one of the most efficient surveillance systems, Sfera led to the detention of 141 people last year. “Facial recognition, and video cameras in general in a totalitarian state, are an absolute evil,” Vyborov says.
Vyborov finds himself at the bottom of a slippery slope that privacy advocates have long warned about . Under the guise of smart city technology, authoritarian and democratic governments have rolled out huge networks of security cameras and used artificial intelligence to try to ensure there is no place to hide. Cities have touted the ability of such systems to tackle crime, manage crowds, and better respond to emergencies. Privacy campaigners say such systems could be used as tools of oppression. In Moscow, Vyborov and countless others now face that oppression on a daily basis.
The Russian capital is now the seventh -most-surveilled city in the world. Across Russia, there are an estimated 21 million surveillance cameras, and the country ranks among the top in the world in terms of the number of connected surveillance cameras. The system created by Moscow’s government, dubbed Safe City, was touted by city officials as a way to streamline its public safety systems. In recent years, however, its 217,000 surveillance cameras, designed to catch criminals and terrorists, have been turned against protestors, political rivals, and journalists.
“Facial recognition was supposed to be the ‘cherry on top,’ the reason why all of this was built,” says a former employee of NTechLab, one of the principal companies building Safe City’s face recognition system.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Safe City’s data collection practices have become increasingly opaque. The project is now seen as a tool of rising digital repression as Russia wages war against Ukraine and dissenting voices within its own borders. It is an example of the danger smart city technologies pose. And for the engineers and programmers who built such systems, its transformation into a tool of oppression has led to a moment of reckoning.
Founded in 2015, NTechLab caught the attention of the global press with the February 2016 launch of FindFace, an app that allowed anyone to identify faces by matching them with images gathered from social network VKontakte , Russia’s Facebook equivalent. Met with warnings of the “end to public anonymity,” the app was reportedly downloaded by 500,000 people within two months of its launch. But for NTechLab, it was primarily a proof of concept for its nascent face recognition algorithm.
NTechLab still felt like a startup when one former employee, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons, joined the company. And he was drawn in by the complexity of the work.
“From [an] engineering point of view, it’s very interesting to work with: It’s very difficult,” he says.
After the release of FindFace, NTechLab began selling its face recognition tech to small businesses, such as shopping malls that could use it to catch shoplifters or see how many people return to certain stores. But NTechLab was also working with the Moscow Department of IT Technology (DIT), the government department tasked with building Moscow’s digital infrastructure. In 2018, when Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup, NTechLab’s face recognition tech was connected to more than 450 security cameras around Moscow, and its tech reportedly helped police detain 180 people whom the state deemed “wanted criminals.”
At its inception, Moscow’s face recognition system was fed official watchlists, like the database of wanted people. The system uses these lists to notify the police once a person on the list is detected, but law enforcement can also upload an image and search for where a person has appeared. Over the years, security and law enforcement agencies have compiled a database of the leaders of the political opposition and prominent activists, according to Sarkis Darbinyan, cofounder of digital rights group Roskomsvoboda, which has been campaigning for a suspension of the technology. It remains unclear who is in charge of adding activists and protesters to watchlists.
In March 2019, following the success of the World Cup trial—some of Russia’s “most wanted” people were arrested while trying to attend matches—the Moscow Department of Transportation, which operates the city’s metro, launched its own surveillance system, Sfera. By October 2019, 3,000 of the city’s 160,000 cameras were enabled with face recognition tech, according to interior minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev.
NTechLab was one of many companies building the slew of systems that would later be branded Safe City. International companies, from US tech firms such as Nvidia, Intel, and Broadcom to South Korea’s Samsung and Chinese camera maker Hikvision, worked alongside local firms such as HeadPoint , Netris , and Rostelecom that have developed various components of the surveillance systems. According to procurement documents cited by the UK’s BBC, three companies besides NTechLab created face recognition tech for Moscow’s growing surveillance apparatus, including Tevian, and Kipod, and VisionLabs. Moscow's Transportation Department said in social media posts that Sfera was built using VisionLabs technology, although the company downplays its involvement.
NtechLab says it operates in compliance with local laws and does not have access to customer data or camera video streams. Nvidia and Intel say they left Russia in 2022, with Nvidia adding that it does not create software or algorithms for surveillance. Broadcom and Samsung also say they stopped doing business in Russia following the invasion. VisionLabs says it only provides the Moscow Metro with its face recognition payment system. Other companies did not respond to requests for comment. The DIT and the Moscow Department of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.
At the end of 2018, as Russia cracked down harder on political dissent online and in the streets, the DIT started to change, says a former employee who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons. The department used to just be the “technical guys” providing assistance to security services, with the Moscow government recruiting highly paid IT specialists to make the most efficient systems possible, according to Andrey Soldatov, an investigative journalist and Russian security services expert. But according to the former employee, the DIT was beginning to reflect the Kremlin’s authoritarian bent.
Then came Covid.
Safe City launched in 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Russia, like some other countries, seemingly used the pandemic as grounds to expand its surveillance systems to catch people breaking self-isolation rules. By mid-March 2020, Safe City’s face recognition system had caught 200 people breaking lockdown restrictions. At the same time, Moscow introduced a regulatory sandbox for the development of AI applications with the participation of large IT companies, exempting authorities from the country’s already lax data protection requirements. “With Covid, [the DIT] essentially became a part of the repressive apparatus,” says Soldatov.
In addition to its network of more than 200,000 cameras, Safe City also incorporates data from 169 information systems, managing data on citizens, public services, transportation, and nearly everything else that makes up Moscow’s infrastructure. This includes anonymized cell phone geolocation data collection, vehicle license plate recognition, data from ride-hailing services, and voice recognition devices. As Safe City was still rolling out in 2020, the Russian government announced plans to spend $1.3 billion deploying similar Safe City systems across Russia. From the outside, the potential for the system to be abused seemed obvious. But for those involved in its development, it looked like many other smart city projects. “No one expected that the country would turn into hell in two years,” says one former NTechLab employee, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
Attempts to break open Moscow’s digital black box have been stonewalled. Alena Popova, whose image was captured during a protest against politician Leonid Eduardovich Slutsky in April 2018, filed the first lawsuit against Moscow’s DIT for allegedly violating her privacy, seeking a ban on face recognition tech. The case was thrown out , but Popova has continued to file lawsuits, including one at the European Court of Human Rights—which Russia is no longer a part of.
While Moscow operates one of the world’s most pervasive surveillance systems, Russian law does not safeguard individual privacy. With seemingly no hope of recourse, some activists have been forced to leave Russia altogether. Popova is now on the list of foreign agents and is living in an undisclosed overseas location. “I will not apply to any political asylum in any country because I would like to go back to my own country and fight back,” she says.
A key concern is that Moscow’s surveillance system was designed to conceal its data collection from Moscow’s 12 million residents, says Sergey Ross, founder of the Collective Action Center think tank and a former Moscow politician. Although the system is run by the Moscow government, elected members of the Moscow City Duma say they are excluded from regulating face recognition systems and have little insight into how it is being used. “It’s a complete black box,” says Ross.
“It was clear that sooner or later the technology would be used to catch activists and dissenters,” says Roskomsvoboda’s Darbinyan.
Russia made almost 20,500 political arrests in 2022 , according to data from human rights media organization OVD-Info, which characterizes the number as “unprecedented.” The arrests have sparked fears that Safe City will be expanded to catch draft dodgers—although former NTechLab employees say that doing so would be technically difficult to pull it off because of too many false positives. Still, Moscow police appear to be using face recognition to aid Russia’s war efforts in other ways.
In September 2022, just after Putin announced additional mobilization for the war against Ukraine, Viktor Kapitonov, a 27-year-old activist who’d protested regularly since 2013, was stopped by two police officers after being flagged by face recognition surveillance while he approached the turnstiles in Moscow’s marble-covered Avtozavdodskaya metro station. The officers took him to the military recruitment office, where around 15 people were waiting to enlist in Putin’s newly announced draft.
“They let me in without waiting in line as if I were some sort of VIP person,” he says. The recruiters wanted to force Kapitonov to enlist, but he ended up escaping the draft. “I explained that I am not fit, I have a disability.”
From 2017 to 2020, NTechLab became one of Russia’s fastest-growing companies. Other face recognition firms have cashed in as well: The revenue of Russian face recognition developers grew between 30 and 35 percent in 2022, thanks in part to deals struck in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, and South America. Russia’s national AI strategy has supported such firms with grants, tax exemptions, and subsidies, which have benefited both startups and state corporations, including tech and finance giant Sber , telecom provider Rostelecom , and defense firm Rostec, which previously owned a minority stake in NTechLab. While NTechLab continues to work globally, reporting a revenue increase of 35 percent in 2022, it has also faced a backlash against its work with the Russian state.
In June of last year, a “name-and-shame” list of NTechLab employees was published [in Russian] with information collected from social media. The project went viral, and some employees reported being harassed online. Artem Zinnatullin, a software engineer now based in the US, says he published the list after NTechLab sold its new silhouette recognition technology to the Moscow government in June 2022. To him, it signaled support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. In the post, he called NTechLab “the blacksmith of the Digital Gulag.” Zinnatullin, who says he knew people arrested with the help of face recognition technology, believes publishing the list of NTechLab employees was only fair. “You recognize people on the street, it’s only fair if we use public data to recognize who you are,” he says.
Unlike many face recognition companies that keep a low profile, NTechLab’s splash with FindFace has turned it into a recognized brand. Employees say this high profile has made them into scapegoats.
As arrests of activists and politicians mounted, the ethics of NTechLab’s technology became a recurring topic at company meetings. NTechLab staff have resisted the use of the company’s face recognition in rallies and refused to sell the technology to the military, according to people familiar with these discussions. Still, the NTechLab leadership concluded that the technology was ultimately positive—even if the occasional dissenting voice was arrested because of it.
“We all saw these positive examples, we saw how it really catches criminals,” says one former NTechLab employee. “Most people in NTechLab would say they were doing something very good, technologies that can help and save people’s lives. It really did.”
As Russia furthered its march toward authoritarianism in 2021, NTechLab leadership began talking about moving the company abroad, according to people familiar with internal company discussions. But with lucrative government contracts abounding—NTechLab received a $13 million investment from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, in September 2020—its investors resisted the idea. The company was also changing. Its founders, Alexander Kabakov and Artem Kukharenko, stepped down from NTechLab—and both left Russia in December 2021 and February 2022, respectively, declaring their anti-war stance on social media.
Other employees left amid an exodus of IT talent from Russia. The war changed how they viewed their work. “Looking back, we realize that we shouldn’t have done it,” says an NTechLab employee. “But even in 2017 and 2018, it was a completely different country. At least, that’s how it seemed to those who weren’t very immersed in politics.”
Russia’s Safe City projects show no sign of slowing. As more surveillance systems are deployed across the country, Moscow’s DIT is planning to centralize video streams collected across all regions into its own system. And new projects to digitize public services may make it even easier for the government to eventually create large databases where everyone can be found, according to Popova. “It is really scary,” she says. “If they digitalize all the databases and combine them to make this joint database, they can find everybody.” In July, Putin signed a federal law that funnels personal biometric data collected in the country into a single system—an effort to obtain an “almost unlimited monopoly” on the collection and storage of biometrics, says Roskomsvoboda’s Darbinyan.
In a further expansion of the Safe City project, Rostec is also reportedly developing software that will help authorities predict riots and prevent their escalation by analyzing media reports, data from social networks, video cameras, and other sources. Rostec did not respond to a request for comment on its development of these systems.
Similar systems have been developed in some Chinese cities, and Russia is now playing catch-up. “The Russian government would probably like to move toward China, but they do not yet have the necessary technology,” says Kiril Koroteev, head of international practice at the Russia-based Agora International Human Rights Group.
For now, many activists in Russia are left to do whatever they can to skirt the country’s growing surveillance apparatus, including avoiding the Moscow Metro. Kapitonov hopes that a balaclava will keep him safe, while Vyborov aims to ride the metro early in the morning, when there are fewer police around to detain him.
“I think that it was inevitable that such a system would be made sooner or later,” says one former NTechLab employee. Face recognition is like a knife, he says: It can be used to cut food, but it can also be used to cut innocent people. He now regrets that NTechLab played a key role in building Moscow’s Safe City project. He has left Russia and doesn’t think he will work on face recognition again. “I do not want to mess with it anymore,” he says.
Update 9:25 am ET, February 6, 2023: Clarified the role of VisionLabs in the Sfera system and that NTechLab's founders have since left the company.
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