Moscow officials have tried to allay privacy concerns by insisting that the images and data collected are “securely encrypted” for criminal purposes.

Data protection officers are pushing for a more transparent control system for these and other advanced and often intrusive technologies. “We have to be sure that all of these innovations are used to help people and not harm them,” said Koslyuk.

Face Pay is part of a wider range of efforts in the city to adopt technology solutions. Moscow is undoubtedly the “smartest” city in Russia, not least because it is the capital of the country and is the focus of the government. With 12.5 million inhabitants, it is the second largest city in Europe – and it is growing. While Russia’s population declined by 1.2 percent between 2002 and 2010, Moscow’s population grew by 10.9 percent. And the average wage in the capital is almost twice the national average.

The capital is also treated royally by the federal government. In 2019 Moscow became Urban renewal budget corresponded to the rest of the country.

“Moscow has power in terms of finances and budgets,” said Sergei Kamolov, professor at the prestigious Moscow State Institute for International Relations. “Moscow is in the avant-garde, a test case for all possible systems.”

Two years ago Russia introduced its own system for ranking its “Smart Cities”, which measures the so-called “IQ”. This provides cities with benchmarks to measure progress in adopting modern technologies and digital services for their populations. Mr Kamolov said these were useful tools to put pressure on local officials to meet the goals set in a national “Smart Cities” program.

Mr. Kamolov, member of a working group on the “Smart Cities” program, warns that his ideas and technologies cannot simply be copied from city to city. Fancy new technologies also do not necessarily have an impact on the quality of life of citizens. “’Smart Cities’ seems to me to be a profound marketing concept,” he said in a telephone interview.

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