Russian Surveillance Technology Company, Ntechlab, to Export Facial Recognition Software to India

On June 29, Russ­ian facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny, Ntech­lab, announced that, in the next month, it will deploy its soft­ware across 30 Indi­an Rail­ways sta­tions, with aspi­ra­tions to expand the company’s sur­veil­lance sys­tem through­out the entire Indi­an rail­way net­work.  Ntech­lab is backed by RT-Busi­ness, a sub­sidiary of the state-owned defense enter­prise, Ros­tec.  It is also backed by the Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund among oth­er for­eign investors.

In Rus­sia, Ntechlab’s tech­nol­o­gy is a fix­ture with­in the Kremlin’s exten­sive domes­tic sur­veil­lance net­work, includ­ing in major urban cen­ters, such as Moscow.  These ties thus impli­cate the com­pa­ny in the Kremlin’s expan­sive sur­veil­lance sys­tem that is wide­ly used to sur­veil cit­i­zens and crack down on gov­ern­ment oppo­nents and protesters.

The company’s moves into the Indi­an mar­ket are emblem­at­ic of Ntechlab’s grow­ing glob­al ambi­tions.  The com­pa­ny, for exam­ple, has a pres­ence in Argenti­na, where its tech­nol­o­gy has raised data pri­va­cy con­cerns.  More recent­ly, Ntech­lab set up two offices in the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates to engage with Gulf mar­kets.  In 2019, the Russ­ian firm joint­ly devel­oped a facial recog­ni­tion cam­era with Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Dahua Tech­nol­o­gy, for Russ­ian and Chi­nese law enforce­ment agen­cies, acknowl­edg­ing that the com­pa­nies also intend to sell the new prod­uct to for­eign mil­i­taries.  Unver­i­fied sources also report that Ntech­Lab works in part­ner­ship with Ros­tec to devel­op facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy for the Russ­ian military.

Artem Kukharenko, Co-Founder and R&D Direc­tor of Ntech­lab, con­firmed that the com­pa­ny is close­ly mon­i­tor­ing India’s planned devel­op­ment of a uni­fied bio­met­ric sys­tem and that the com­pa­ny is active­ly pur­su­ing a deal to par­tic­i­pate in this sys­tem with “com­mer­cial and state struc­tures” with­in India.  Kukharenko points out that India’s planned sur­veil­lance net­work is “more or less the same thing” as what is cur­rent­ly being imple­ment­ed in Rus­sia.  Ntech­lab is among the pri­ma­ry ven­dors for Russia’s state-backed Uni­fied Bio­met­ric System.