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16 Dec, 2020 12:45

City of spies? Moscow plans to offer residents t-shirts & hats in exchange for snitching on Covid-19 rule-breakers

City of spies? Moscow plans to offer residents  t-shirts & hats in exchange for snitching on Covid-19 rule-breakers

Citizens, stay vigilant! Moscow residents will soon be asked to do their duty by reporting scruffy subway stations, poorly parked bicycles and coronavirus-defying crowds through a new super-snooping mobile app.

The capital’s City Hall announced on Wednesday that it will splash more than 75 million roubles ($1 million) on the new downloadable software, named ‘Moscow Assistant’. It will enable users to upload pictures of civic misdeeds, like dodgy car parking, and beam them straight to the authorities for a speedy resolution. It will also be an outlet for Muscovites with an axe to grind about the state of public infrastructure, allowing them to report broken bicycle parking and problems with transport services.

The new project will also play a role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, offering the ability to report crowds and public gatherings, many of which are currently prohibited under emergency laws. According to the Kommersant newspaper, authorities will be able to “patrol parks and squares, transmitting signals to the City Hall about crowd sizes. A Dark Red command will mean that there are too many people in the park, and it needs to be closed, while a Green code will signal the opening of the path.”

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Another innovation will cross-reference users with the database of people who have tested positive for Covid-19, and warn them against leaving their household.

The most active users on the new application will be rewarded handsomely by the authorities. Amateur detectives and civic-minded sleuths are eligible to receive points to be redeemed against a whole host of prizes, including t-shirts and baseball caps.

However, not everyone is delighted by the idea that Moscow will become a city of curtain-twitchers. Alexander Saveliev of the capital’s branch of the Russian Bar Association, which represents the city’s lawyers, told local news that “this kind of snitching” could open up a slippery slope to more widespread citizen-powered surveillance.

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