What is Surveillance?
Surveillance is just a word like any other which describes activities or behaviours of people or individuals normally aimed at influencing, managing or protecting. While it normally refers to observation of people or groups by government organizations, there are other types of surveillance like disease surveillance, which is monitoring the progress of a disease in a community. “Surveillance” derives from the French word for “watching over”: “sur” means “from above”, while “veiller” means “to watch”. This is done
using electronic equipment like CCTV cams, or interception of electronically transmitted information like Internet traffic or telephone calls. Surveillance may also refer to simple, low-technology methods like human intelligence agents and postal interception.
Surveillance is a useful tool for the governments and even private individuals, recognize giving them an all-seeing eye into corners to prevent illicit actions. Thanks to the programs like the Total Information Awareness and ADVISE (Advanced Visual System for Situation Awareness Enhancement), technologies like high-speed surveillance PCs and biometrics software, and legislation like the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, the authorities today can easily monitor the activities of their subjects. Nevertheless, a number of civil rights and privacy outfits, reason being individuals refuse to be monitored take offence when they are under surveillance and so that may lead to lawsuits.

Types of Surveillance

Postal services

With more people using faxes and e-mails, the importance of surveilling the postal system is reducing in favour of the web and phone surveillance.


However, law enforcement and intelligence agencies are still able to intercept post in certain circumstances.

Computer Surveillance

Most of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of information and traffic online.However, there’s far too much information online for human investigators to manually search through. That’s why automated online surveillance computers look through the enormous amount of intercepted traffic and identify something interesting by using certain “trigger” keywords and phrases, checking certain types of the online services, or chatting with suspicious people.Personal computers are also a surveillance target due to the information they store.


TEMPEST is one more form of computer surveillance, involving reading electromagnetic emanations from the devices, which can allow to distantly extract information from them. Likewise a database called “Pinwale” used by intelligence organisations storing and indexing lots of emails of citizens and foreigners.

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance cameras are video cameras that observe an area. In most cases, they are connected to a recording device or IP network, and watched by security personnel. Earlier, cameras and recording equipment were quite expensive and required human personnel to monitor the camera footage. However, with modern cheaper production techniques, it became simple and inexpensive for home security systems or everyday surveillance. The consequent analysis of footage is also simplified by automated software which converts digital video footage into a searchable database and analyzes it. Today the amount of footage is also reduced by motion detectors.


With London being the place with the most cameras in the world China has a Golden Shield Project incooperation with a number of American corporations, including General Electric, IBM and Honeywell, to install millions of surveillance cameras across China, equipped with advanced video analytics and facial recognition software allowing to identify and track people wherever they go. The cameras will be connected to a database and monitoring station which in the end will contain a picture of every Chinese citizen: more than 1.3 billion people. According to Lin Jiang Huai, who leads the counrty’s Information Security Technology office, he recognizes the surveillance systems in the US and the United Kingdom as the inspiration.


In most cases, human agents are not needed to monitor the phone calls. Speech-to-text software is able to create machine-readable text from the intercepted audio. The text is then processed by automated call-analysis programs written by the agencies like the Information Awareness Office, or companies like Verint and Narus. The software searches for specific words or phrases in order to decide whether to dedicate a human agent to the call.Moreover, law enforcement and intelligence services in the UK and the US have technology that allows remotely activating the microphones in cell phones by accessing devices’ diagnostic or maintenance features and listening to conversations around the person holding the phone.

In addition, mobile phones are also often used to collect location information. This is how it is done: the geographical location of a phone and the person holding it can be found by calculating the differences in time for a signal to travel from the mobile phone to cell towers near the device. In the United States, the debates continue over the legality of such technique and especially over the question whether a court warrant is required. For instance, the records for one carrier revealed that in a given year federal law enforcement agencies requested mobile phone location data 8,000,000 times.

Social Network Analysis

Social network maps are data mined in order to extract useful details, including personal interests, friendships & affiliations, beliefs, and activities.threats can be easily countered by searching for important nodes in the network and removing them.


That’s where the authorities will need a detailed map of the network. Some industry observers think that the use of social networking websites is a kind of participatory surveillance, which means that the users of these websites are actually performing surveillance on themselves, publishing detailed personal data on public services where it can be viewed by anyone. Around 1/5 of employers are also using social networks to collect personal information on prospective or current employees.

Aerial surveillance

Aerial surveillance is the gathering of visual imagery or video from an airborne vehicle, normally unmanned aerial vehicle, helicopter, or spy plane usually known as drones. As for military surveillance aircraft, it uses a number of sensors (like radar) in order to monitor the battlefield.

Thanks to digital imaging technology and many other technological advances, aerial surveillance hardware is rapidly developing, including micro-aerial vehicles, forward-looking infrared, and even high-resolution imagery able to identify objects at very long distances. Drones have cameras able to identify an object the size of a milk carton from altitudes of 60,000 ft. It also carries forward-looking infrared devices allowing for a human body heat detection at distances of up to 60 km.


There are programs that have developed systems with large teams drone planes piloting themselves, which could automatically decide who is suspicious and how to monitor the suspects. As a result, the amount of area to be continuously monitored might increase, while the number of human operators was reduced. In other words, a swarm of automated, self-directing drones is able to automatically patrol an area and track suspicious people and groups, reporting their activities back to a monitoring station.

Biometric Surveillance 

Biometric surveillance is a technology which measures and analyzes physical and behavioral characteristics of people for authentication purposes. They include fingerprints, DNA, facial patterns, gait and voice. Facial recognition involves the use of the configuration of someone’s facial features in order to accurately identify the person, normally from surveillance video. One more form of behavioral biometrics, which is based on affective computing, recognizes an individual’s emotional state by analyzing their facial expressions, speed of speech, tone and pitch of the voice, posture, etc. Such approach can be used to find out whether a person is acting “suspicious”.


The latest development is DNA fingerprinting that looks at some of the major markers in the body’s DNA to produce a match.At the moment, facial thermographs are in the process of development. They will allow the computers to identify certain emotions in people, like fear or stress, by measuring the temperature generated by their blood flow to the face. Experts think that this has potential to identify when a suspect is nervous, i.e. is worried, hiding something, or lying.

Data Profiling

Data Profiling is anything by which an electronic record is created leaving an “electronic trail it is  conducted by applying the statistical techniques and programmatic algorithms in order to find previously unnoticed relationships within the information. Therefore, data profiling represents the process of assembling data about a particular person or a group to create a profile (a picture of their patterns and behaviour). In fact, it can be a very powerful instrument for psychological and social network analysis, which can reveal facts about an individual that they might not even be consciously aware of themselves.

Different transactions in our society, including economic (credit card purchases) and social (phone calls and emails), usually create vast amounts of stored information and records. Previously, this information was either documented in paper records, which left a so-called “paper trail”, or wasn’t documented at all. Meanwhile, correlation of paper records used to be a laborious process, which required human intelligence operators, who had to manually dig through papers. This took a lot of time and was incomplete, at best. Each time you pay by credit card, use a bank machine or a phone card, make a phone call from home, rent a video, check out library book, or complete any other recorded transaction, an electronic record is generated. Today public records, including birth, court, tax and other records, are increasingly being digitized and made available on the web. Moreover, thanks to the laws like CALEA, Internet traffic and online purchases can also be available for profiling. Electronic method of keeping records makes information easily collectable, storable, and accessible, lowering the cost of high-volume and efficient aggregation and analysis.Data about many individual transactions is usually easily available as it’s generally not guarded in isolation. The matter is that such data as the title of a rented film might not seem sensitive to some. Nevertheless, such transactions, when aggregated, can be used to assemble a detailed profile which reveals the habits, beliefs and locations of the person. Such profile can later be used by programs like ADVISE and TALON in order to find out whether the person represents any military, criminal or political threat.

Spy Agents
Companies that have enemies willing to collect information about the group’s members or activities have to face the issue of infiltration.


Aside from the operatives’ infiltrating an organization, the surveilling company might exert pressure on some members of the target outfit to act as informants (in other words, to disclose the data they hold on the company and its members).

Corporate Surveillance

Apparently, corporate surveillance is the monitoring of someone’s behavior by a corporation. The information gathered is normally used for marketing purposes or sold to other companies. In addition, it can be shared with the authorities. The information collected can be used as a form of business intelligence that enables the company to better tailor their products or services to the customers’ needs. In case the information is sold to other companies, it is used by them for the same purpose or for direct marketing purposes, like targeted advertisements on search engines, where adverts are targeted to the user of the service by analyzing their search history and emails stored in a database.

Satellite Imagery

These are satellites and aircraft sensors that can penetrate cloud cover, detect chemical traces, and identify objects to provide real-time video at high resolutions.Satellite images have many applications in meteorology, oceanography, fishing, agriculture, biodiversity conservation, forestry, landscape, geology, cartography, regional planning, education, intelligence and warfare. Images can be in visible colours and in other spectra.


There are also elevation maps, usually made by radar images. Interpretation and analysis of satellite imagery is conducted using specialized remote sensing applications.

Identification and credentials

The simplest form of identification is considered to be the carrying of credentials. Some countries have an identity card system in place aimed at aiding identification. Others, including the United Kingdom, are considering this system but face public opposition. The documents like passports and driver’s licenses can also be used to verify identity.

In case the identity card is “machine-readable”, i.e. using an encoded magnetic stripe or identification number (like a Social Security number), it will corroborate the subject’s identifying information. Thus, it may create an electronic trail when checked and scanned. This can later be used in profiling.

Radio frequency identification and geolocation devices

There are three geolocation devices.

  • Global Positioning System (GPS)

The police may plant hidden Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices in the vehicles to monitor the movements of their owners, without a warrant. 3 years ago, the authorities were arguing in court that they have the right to do this. A number of cities are currently running pilot projects that require parolees to wear GPS devices in order to track their movements after they get out of prison.

  • Mobile Phones

Mobile phones can also be often used to gather geolocation information of the device and thus the individual carrying it. It can be determined quite easily, regardless of whether the phone is being used or not, through technique described above, which calculates the differences in time for a signal to travel from the mobile to cell towers.

  • Radio Frequency Identification tagging

Radio frequency identification tagging is done with the help of very small electronic devices applied to or incorporated into a gadget, animal, or person with the purpose of identification and tracking via radio waves. Such RFID tags can be read from a few meters away. They are quite cheap, costing a few cents per piece, and can be placed into many types of everyday products without increasing the price much. The tags can be used to track and identify objects for many purposes.
For instance, Verichip is an RFID device made by Applied Digital Solutions (ADS) company. It is slightly larger than a grain of rice and should be injected under the skin. The procedure is reported to feel like receiving a shot. The chip, encased in glass, carries a “VeriChip Subscriber Number” which allows the scanner to access personal data online from Verichip Inc.’s database.



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