MOSCOW -- Police in the Russian capital have detained a group of activists protesting against expanded government surveillance on February 9 after the demonstrators gathered outside the presidential administration with their faces demonstratively painted to evade facial-recognition tools.
The group, which refers to itself with a Russian-language social-media hashtag that roughly translates as “Follow” (#следуй), launched a campaign last week against the government’s growing use of street-mounted technology to surveil citizens.
Inspired by a similar project in London, the Russian protesters are seeking to educate citizens on how they can defy the cameras that are proliferating across Russia’s capital.
Alongside China and several Western states, Russia is rapidly becoming one of the world’s foremost developers of surveillance technology.
Several activists from the movement gathered at noon beside the presidential-administration building to paint their faces before embarking on a march through central Moscow to raise public attention.
It took less than 20 minutes for police to detain them.
“We were applying face paint against facial recognition outside the presidential administration. Everyone was detained,” protest organizer Yekaterina Nenasheva wrote on Facebook from inside a police car.
Not long afterward, she informed subscribers to the group’s Telegram channel that a 2 p.m. lecture at a Moscow venue aimed at teaching others how to apply evasive face paint had been canceled “to ensure the safety of all participants."