The Russian government is requiring banks to share their customers’ biometric data with the state, the business daily Kommersant reported on Tuesday.
Russia’s Unified Biometric System (UBS), accessible to police and intelligence services, was created in 2018 to enable the use of facial recognition for online banking.
Kommersant reported that authorities sent a directive to at least four major state-owned banks in May requiring them to share their customers’ biometric data.
“Work is underway to adopt a decree of the Russian government on the procedure for obtaining consent for the import of biometric data from the commercial biometric system to [the UBS]Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernychenko’s office told the publication.
Rights groups have criticized UBS for being invasive.
“Now that the country’s main biometric database is fully under government control, authorities may seek to convince people to hand over their data,warned Human Rights Watch (HRW) in February.
“The lack of transparency and independent control over the storage, access and Security biometric data in Russia are long-standing concerns. There is also no transparency about the circumstances under which, for example, the Ministry of the Interior or the Federal Security Service can access the data,” he added.
Banks tasked by the government with approving the transfer of biometric data include VTB, Promsvyazbank, Rosselkhozbank and the Crimea-based Russian National Commercial Bank.
The four banks are under Western sanctions.
According to Kommersant, a separate directive is being drafted for Russia’s largest lender, the state-owned Sberbank.
UBS, which the government had hoped to reach 70 million biometric identifiers by 2024, is estimated by the Central Bank to have a total of 236,400 entries.
Russian public telecommunications provider Rostelecom operates UBS under the supervision of the central ban and the Ministry of Communications.