Surveillance is the monitoring of behavior, many activities, or information for the purpose of information gathering, influencing, or directing. This can include observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment, such as (CCTV), or interception of electronically transmitted information like . It can also include simple technical methods, such as and . Surveillance is used by s for intelligence gathering, prevention of crime, the protection of a process, person, group or object, or the investigation of crime. It is also used by criminal organizations to plan and commit crimes, and by businesses to on criminals, their competitors, suppliers or customers. organisations charged with detecting and may also carry out surveillance. s carry out a form of surveillance. Surveillance can be used by governments to unjustifiably violate people's and is often criticized by activists. may have laws that seek to restrict governmental and private use of surveillance, whereas governments seldom have any domestic restrictions. International seems to be common among all types of countries.



The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of and on the . In the United States for example, under the , all phone calls and broadband Internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by federal law enforcement agencies. There is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it. Therefore, automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic to identify and report to human investigators the traffic that is considered interesting or suspicious. This process is regulated by targeting certain "trigger" words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or online chat with suspicious individuals or groups. Billions of dollars per year are spent by agencies, such as the , the and the now-defunct , to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as , , and to intercept and analyze all of this data to extract only the information which is useful to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Computers can be a surveillance target because of the personal data stored on them. If someone is able to install software, such as the FBI's and , on a computer system, they can easily gain unauthorized access to this data. Such software could be installed physically or remotely. Another form of computer surveillance, known as , involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters. The NSA runs a database known as "", which stores and indexes large numbers of emails of both American citizens and foreigners. Additionally, the NSA runs a program known as , which is a data mining system that gives the United States government direct access to information from technology companies. Through accessing this information, the government is able to obtain search history, emails, stored information, live chats, file transfers, and more. This program generated huge controversies in regards to surveillance and privacy, especially from U.S. citizens.


The official and unofficial tapping of telephone lines is widespread. In the for instance, the requires that all telephone and VoIP communications be available for real-time wiretapping by Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Two major telecommunications companies in the U.S.— and —have contracts with the FBI, requiring them to keep their phone call records easily searchable and accessible for Federal agencies, in return for $1.8 million per year. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI sent out more than 140,000 "s" ordering phone companies to hand over information about their customers' calling and Internet histories. About half of these letters requested information on U.S. citizens. Human agents are not required to monitor most calls. software creates machine-readable text from intercepted audio, which is then processed by automated call-analysis programs, such as those developed by agencies such as the , or companies such as , and , which search for certain words or phrases, to decide whether to dedicate a human agent to the call. Law enforcement and intelligence services in the United Kingdom and the United States possess technology to activate the microphones in cell phones remotely, by accessing phones' diagnostic or maintenance features in order to listen to conversations that take place near the person who holds the phone. The tracker is an example of one of these tools used to monitor cell phone usage in the United States and the United Kingdom. Originally developed for counterterrorism purposes by the military, they work by broadcasting powerful signals that cause nearby cell phones to transmit their , just as they would to normal cell phone towers. Once the phone is connected to the device, there is no way for the user to know that they are being tracked. The operator of the stingray is able to extract information such as location, phone calls, and text messages, but it is widely believed that the capabilities of the StingRay extend much further. A lot of controversy surrounds the StingRay because of its powerful capabilities and the secrecy that surrounds it. Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. The geographical location of a mobile phone (and thus the person carrying it) can be determined easily even when the phone is not being used, using a technique known as to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several near the owner of the phone. The legality of such techniques has been questioned in the United States, in particular whether a court warrant is required. Records for ''one'' carrier alone (Sprint), showed that in a given year federal law enforcement agencies requested customer location data 8 million times. In response to customers' privacy concerns in the post era, Apple's iPhone 6 has been designed to disrupt investigative efforts. The phone encrypts e-mails, contacts, and photos with a code generated by a complex mathematical algorithm that is unique to an individual phone, and is inaccessible to Apple. The feature on the iPhone 6 has drawn criticism from FBI director James B. Comey and other law enforcement officials since even lawful requests to access user content on the iPhone 6 will result in Apple supplying "gibberish" data that requires law enforcement personnel to either break the code themselves or to get the code from the phone's owner. Because the Snowden leaks demonstrated that American agencies can access phones anywhere in the world, privacy concerns in countries with growing markets for smart phones have intensified, providing a strong incentive for companies like to address those concerns in order to secure their position in the global market. Although the requires companies to build into their systems the ability to carry out a lawful wiretap, the law has not been updated to address the issue of smart phones and requests for access to and . The Snowden leaks show that the has been taking advantage of this ambiguity in the law by collecting metadata on "at least hundreds of millions" of "incidental" targets from around the world. The NSA uses an analytic tool known as CO-TRAVELER in order to track people whose movements intersect and to find any hidden connections with persons of interest. The Snowden leaks have also revealed that the British (GCHQ) can access information collected by the NSA on American citizens. Once the data has been collected, the GCHQ can hold on to it for up to two years. The deadline can be extended with the permission of a "senior UK official".


Surveillance cameras, or security cameras, are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or , and may be watched by a or . Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage, but analysis of footage has been made easier by automated software that organizes digital video footage into a searchable , and by video analysis software (such as and ). The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which record only when motion is detected. With cheaper production techniques, surveillance cameras are simple and inexpensive enough to be used in home security systems, and for everyday surveillance. As of 2016, there are about 350 million surveillance cameras worldwide. About 65% of these cameras are installed in Asia. The growth of CCTV has been slowing in recent years. In 2018, China was reported to have a huge surveillance network of over 170 million CCTV cameras with 400 million new cameras expected to be installed in the next three years, many of which use . In the , the awards billions of dollars per year in for local, state, and federal agencies to install modern video surveillance equipment. For example, the city of , Illinois, recently used a $5.1 million Homeland Security grant to install an additional 250 surveillance cameras, and connect them to a centralized monitoring center, along with its preexisting network of over 2000 cameras, in a program known as . Speaking in 2009, Chicago Mayor announced that Chicago would have a surveillance camera on every street corner by the year 2016. received a $350 million grant towards the development of the , which is an interconnected system of sensors including 18,000 CCTV cameras used for continual surveillance of the city by both police officers and . In the , the vast majority of video surveillance cameras are not operated by government bodies, but by private individuals or companies, especially to monitor the interiors of shops and businesses. According to 2011 requests, the total number of local government operated CCTV cameras was around 52,000 over the entirety of the UK. The prevalence of video surveillance in the UK is often overstated due to unreliable estimates being requoted;; for example one report in 2002 extrapolated from a very small sample to estimate the number of cameras in the UK at 4.2 million (of which 500,000 were in ). More reliable estimates put the number of private and local government operated cameras in the United Kingdom at around 1.85 million in 2011. In the Netherlands, one example city where there are cameras is The Hague. There, cameras are placed in city districts in which the most illegal activity is concentrated. Examples are the s and the train stations. As part of China's , several U.S. corporations, including , , and , have been working closely with the to install millions of surveillance cameras throughout , along with advanced and facial recognition software, which will identify and track individuals everywhere they go. They will be connected to a centralized database and monitoring station, which will, upon completion of the project, contain a picture of the face of every person in China: over 1.3 billion people. Lin Jiang Huai, the head of China's "Information Security Technology" office (which is in charge of the project), credits the surveillance systems in the United States and the U.K. as the inspiration for what he is doing with the Golden Shield Project. The (DARPA) is funding a research project called that will link up cameras across a city to a centralized monitoring station, identify and track individuals and vehicles as they move through the city, and report "suspicious" activity (such as waving arms, looking side-to-side, standing in a group, etc.). At in January 2001, police in Tampa, Florida, used facial recognition software, FaceIt, to scan the crowd for potential criminals and terrorists in attendance at the event (it found 19 people with pending arrest warrants). Governments often initially claim that cameras are meant to be used for , but many of them end up using them for general surveillance. For example, Washington, D.C. had 5,000 "traffic" cameras installed under this premise, and then after they were all in place, networked them all together and then granted access to the Metropolitan Police Department, so they could perform "day-to-day monitoring". The development of centralized networks of CCTV cameras watching public areas – linked to computer databases of people's pictures and identity ( data), able to track people's movements throughout the city, and identify whom they have been with – has been argued by some to present a risk to . is an example of such a network.

Social network analysis

One common form of surveillance is to create maps of based on data from such as , , as well as from information from phone call records such as those in the , and others. These "maps" are then to extract useful information such as personal interests, friendships & affiliations, wants, beliefs, thoughts, and activities. Many U.S. government agencies such as the (DARPA), the (NSA), and the (DHS) are investing heavily in research involving social network analysis. The intelligence community believes that the biggest threat to U.S. power comes from decentralized, leaderless, geographically dispersed groups of , , , and . These types of threats are most easily countered by finding important nodes in the network, and removing them. To do this requires a detailed map of the network. Jason Ethier of Northeastern University, in his study of modern social network analysis, said the following of the Scalable Social Network Analysis Program developed by the : AT&T developed a programming language called "Hancock", which is able to sift through enormous databases of phone call and Internet traffic records, such as the , and extract "communities of interest"—groups of people who call each other regularly, or groups that regularly visit certain sites on the Internet. AT&T originally built the system to develop "marketing leads", but the FBI has regularly requested such information from phone companies such as AT&T without a warrant, and, after using the data, stores all information received in its own databases, regardless of whether or not the information was ever useful in an investigation. Some people believe that the use of social networking sites is a form of "participatory surveillance", where users of these sites are essentially performing surveillance on themselves, putting detailed personal information on public websites where it can be viewed by corporations and governments. In 2008, about 20% of employers reported using social networking sites to collect personal data on prospective or current employees.


Biometric surveillance is a technology that measures and analyzes human physical and/or behavioral characteristics for authentication, identification, or screening purposes. Examples of physical characteristics include fingerprints, DNA, and facial patterns. Examples of mostly behavioral characteristics include gait (a person's manner of walking) or voice. is the use of the unique configuration of a person's facial features to accurately identify them, usually from surveillance video. Both the Department of Homeland Security and are heavily funding research into facial recognition systems. The ran a program known as which developed technologies that are capable of identifying a person at up to by their facial features. Another form of behavioral biometrics, based on , involves computers recognizing a person's emotional state based on an analysis of their facial expressions, how fast they are talking, the tone and pitch of their voice, their posture, and other behavioral traits. This might be used for instance to see if a person's behavior is suspect (looking around furtively, "tense" or "angry" facial expressions, waving arms, etc.). A more recent development is , which looks at some of the major markers in the body's DNA to produce a match. The FBI is spending $1 billion to build a new biometric database, which will store DNA, facial recognition data, iris/retina (eye) data, fingerprints, palm prints, and other biometric data of people living in the United States. The computers running the database are contained in an underground facility about the size of two s. The Los Angeles Police Department is installing automated facial recognition and devices in its squad cars, and providing handheld face scanners, which officers will use to identify people while on patrol.
Facial thermographs
are in development, which allow machines to identify certain emotions in people such as fear or stress, by measuring the temperature generated by blood flow to different parts of the face. Law enforcement officers believe that this has potential for them to identify when a suspect is nervous, which might indicate that they are hiding something, lying, or worried about something. I
his paper
in , Avi Marciano maps the harms caused by biometric surveillance, traces their theoretical origins, and brings these harms together in one integrative framework to elucidate their cumulative power. Marciano proposes four types of harms: Unauthorized use of bodily information, denial or limitation of access to physical spaces, bodily social sorting, and symbolic ineligibility through construction of marginality and otherness. Biometrics' social power, according to Marciano, derives from three main features: their complexity as "enigmatic technologies", their objective-scientific image, and their increasing agency, particularly in the context of automatic decision-making.


Aerial surveillance is the gathering of surveillance, usually visual imagery or video, from an airborne vehicle—such as an , , or . Military use a range of sensors (e.g. radar) to monitor the battlefield. Digital imaging technology, miniaturized computers, and numerous other technological advances over the past decade have contributed to rapid advances in aerial surveillance hardware such as , , and high-resolution imagery capable of identifying objects at extremely long distances. For instance, the , a U.S. drone plane used for domestic operations by the , carries cameras that are capable of identifying an object the size of a milk carton from altitudes of , and has devices that can detect the heat from a human body at distances of up to . In an earlier instance of commercial aerial surveillance, the ski resort hired 'eye in the sky' aerial photography of its competitors' parking lots to judge the success of its marketing initiatives as it developed starting in the 1950s. The is in the process of testing UAVs to patrol the skies over the United States for the purposes of , border patrol, "", and general surveillance of the U.S. population. Miami-Dade police department ran tests with a vertical take-off and landing UAV from , which is planned to be used in operations. Houston's police department has been testing fixed-wing UAVs for use in "traffic control". The , as well, is working on plans to build up a fleet of surveillance UAVs ranging from to full-size , to be used by police forces throughout the U.K. In addition to their surveillance capabilities, MAVs are capable of carrying s for "", or weapons for killing enemy combatants. Programs such as the program developed by have automated much of the aerial surveillance process. They have developed systems consisting of large teams drone planes that pilot themselves, automatically decide who is "suspicious" and how to go about monitoring them, coordinate their activities with other drones nearby, and notify human operators if something suspicious is occurring. This greatly increases the amount of area that can be continuously monitored, while reducing the number of human operators required. Thus a swarm of automated, self-directing drones can automatically patrol a city and track suspicious individuals, reporting their activities back to a centralized monitoring station. In addition, researchers also investigate possibilities of autonomous surveillance by large groups of micro aerial vehicles stabilized by decentralized bio-inspired swarming rules.


Corporate surveillance is the monitoring of a person or group's behavior by a corporation. The data collected is most often used for marketing purposes or sold to other corporations, but is also regularly shared with government agencies. It can be used as a form of , which enables the corporation to better tailor their products and/or services to be desirable by their customers. Although there is a common belief that monitoring can increase productivity, it can also create consequences such as increasing chances of deviant behavior and creating punishments that are not equitable to their actions. Additionally, monitoring can cause resistance and backlash because it insinuates an employer's suspicion and lack of trust.

Data mining and profiling

is the application of statistical techniques and programmatic algorithms to discover previously unnoticed relationships within the data. in this context is the process of assembling information about a particular individual or group in order to generate a profile — that is, a picture of their patterns and behavior. Data profiling can be an extremely powerful tool for psychological and . A skilled analyst can discover facts about a person that they might not even be consciously aware of themselves. Economic (such as credit card purchases) and social (such as telephone calls and emails) transactions in modern society create large amounts of stored and records. In the past, this data was documented in paper records, leaving a "", or was simply not documented at all. Correlation of paper-based records was a laborious process—it required human intelligence operators to manually dig through documents, which was time-consuming and incomplete, at best. But today many of these records are electronic, resulting in an "". Every use of a bank machine, payment by credit card, use of a phone card, call from home, checked out library book, rented video, or otherwise complete recorded transaction generates an electronic record. Public records—such as birth, court, tax and other records—are increasingly being digitized and made available online. In addition, due to laws like , web traffic and online purchases are also available for profiling. Electronic record-keeping makes data easily collectable, storable, and accessible—so that high-volume, efficient aggregation and analysis is possible at significantly lower costs. Information relating to many of these individual transactions is often easily available because it is generally not guarded in isolation, since the information, such as the title of a movie a person has rented, might not seem sensitive. However, when many such transactions are they can be used to assemble a detailed profile revealing the actions, habits, beliefs, locations frequented, , and preferences of the individual. This profile is then used, by programs such as and , to determine whether the person is a military, criminal, or political threat. In addition to its own aggregation and profiling tools, the government is able to access information from third parties — for example, banks, credit companies or employers, etc. — by requesting access informally, by compelling access through the use of subpoenas or other procedures, or by purchasing data from commercial data aggregators or data brokers. The United States has spent $370 million on its 43 planned , which are national network of surveillance centers that are located in over 30 states. The centers will collect and analyze vast amounts of data on U.S. citizens. It will get this data by consolidating personal information from sources such as state driver's licensing agencies, hospital records, criminal records, school records, credit bureaus, banks, etc. – and placing this information in a centralized database that can be accessed from all of the centers, as well as other federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Under
United States v. Miller
' (1976), data held by third parties is generally not subject to warrant requirements.

Human operatives

Organizations that have enemies who wish to gather information about the groups' members or activities face the issue of infiltration. In addition to operatives' infiltrating an organization, the surveilling party may exert pressure on certain members of the target organization to act as (i.e., to disclose the information they hold on the organization and its members). Fielding operatives is very expensive, and for governments with wide-reaching electronic surveillance tools at their disposal the information recovered from operatives can often be obtained from less problematic forms of surveillance such as those mentioned above. Nevertheless, human infiltrators are still common today. For instance, in 2007 documents surfaced showing that the was planning to field a total of 15,000 undercover agents and informants in response to an anti-terrorism directive sent out by George W. Bush in 2004 that ordered intelligence and law enforcement agencies to increase their capabilities.

Satellite imagery

On May 25, 2007 the U.S. authorized the of the to allow local, state, and domestic Federal agencies to access imagery from s and sensors which can now be used to observe the activities of U.S. citizens. The satellites and aircraft sensors will be able to penetrate cloud cover, detect chemical traces, and identify objects in buildings and "underground bunkers", and will provide real-time video at much higher resolutions than the still-images produced by programs such as .

Identification and credentials

One of the simplest forms of identification is the carrying of credentials. Some nations have an system to aid identification, whilst others are considering it but face public opposition. Other documents, such as s, s, s, banking or s are also used to verify identity. If the form of the identity card is "machine-readable", usually using an encoded magnetic stripe or identification number (such as a ), it corroborates the subject's identifying data. In this case it may create an electronic trail when it is checked and scanned, which can be used in profiling, as mentioned above.

Wireless Tracking

This section refers to methods that involve the monitoring of s through the aid of wireless signals.

Mobile phones

Mobile carrier antennas are also commonly used to collect geolocation data on mobile phones. The geographical location of a powered mobile phone (and thus the person carrying it) can be determined easily (whether it is being used or not), using a technique known as to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several near the owner of the phone. Dr. Victor Kappeler of Eastern Kentucky University indicates that police surveillance is a strong concern, stating the following statistics from 2013: A comparatively new off-the-shelf surveillance device is an , a device used to intercept mobile phone traffic and track the movement of mobile phone users. Essentially a "fake" acting between the target mobile phone and the service provider's real towers, it is considered a (MITM) attack. IMSI-catchers are used in some countries by and , but their use has raised significant civil liberty and privacy concerns and is strictly regulated in some countries. In March 2020, British daily , based on the claims of a , accused the government of of exploiting global mobile telecom network weaknesses to spy on its citizens traveling around the . The data shared by the whistleblower in support of the claims, showed that a systematic campaign was being run by the kingdom exploiting the flaws of , a global messaging system. The data showed that millions of secret tracking commands originated from Saudi in a duration of four-months, starting from November 2019.

RFID tagging

(RFID) tagging is the use of very small electronic devices (called "RFID tags") which are applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves. The tags can be read from several meters away. They are extremely inexpensive, costing a few cents per piece, so they can be inserted into many types of everyday products without significantly increasing the price, and can be used to track and identify these objects for a variety of purposes. Some companies appear to be "tagging" their workers by incorporating RFID tags in employee ID badges. Workers in U.K. considered in protest of having themselves tagged; they felt that it was to have all of their movements tracked with RFID chips. Some critics have expressed fears that people will soon be tracked and scanned everywhere they go. On the other hand, RFID tags in newborn baby ID bracelets put on by hospitals have foiled kidnappings. In a 2003 editorial, CNET's chief political correspondent, Declan McCullagh, speculated that, soon, every object that is purchased, and perhaps ID cards, will have RFID devices in them, which would respond with information about people as they walk past scanners (what type of phone they have, what type of shoes they have on, which books they are carrying, what credit cards or membership cards they have, etc.). This information could be used for identification, tracking, or . , this has largely not come to pass.

RFID tagging on humans

A human microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit device or transponder encased in and implanted in the body of a human being. A typically contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information. Several types of microchips have been developed in order to control and monitor certain types of people, such as criminals, political figures and spies, a "killer" tracking chip patent was filed at the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) around May 2009. is an RFID device produced by a company called Applied Digital Solutions (ADS). Verichip is slightly larger than a grain of rice, and is injected under the skin. The injection reportedly feels similar to receiving a . The chip is encased in glass, and stores a "VeriChip Subscriber Number" which the scanner uses to access their personal information, via the Internet, from Verichip Inc.'s database, the "Global VeriChip Subscriber Registry". Thousands of people have already had them inserted. In Mexico, for example, 160 workers at the Attorney General's office were required to have the chip injected for identity verification and purposes. Implantable microchips have also been used in healthcare settings, but ethnographic researchers have identified a number of ethical problems with such uses; these problems include unequal treatment, diminished trust, and possible endangerment of patients.

Geolocation devices

Global Positioning System

In the U.S., police have planted hidden tracking devices in people's vehicles to monitor their movements, without a warrant. In early 2009, they were arguing in court that they have the right to do this. Several cities are running pilot projects to require parolees to wear GPS devices to track their movements when they get out of prison.


s and video devices, or "bugs", are hidden electronic devices which are used to capture, record, and/or transmit data to a receiving party such as a law enforcement agency. The U.S. has run numerous domestic intelligence operations, such as , which have bugged the homes, offices, and vehicles of thousands of U.S. citizens, usually , , and . Law enforcement and intelligence services in the U.K. and the United States possess technology to remotely activate the microphones in cell phones, by accessing the phone's diagnostic/maintenance features, in order to listen to conversations that take place nearby the person who holds the phone.

Postal services

As more people use faxes and e-mail the significance of surveilling the postal system is decreasing, in favor of Internet and telephone surveillance. But interception of post is still an available option for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, in certain circumstances. This is not a common practice, however, and entities like the US Army require high levels of approval to conduct. The U.S. and have performed twelve separate mail-opening campaigns targeted towards U.S. citizens. In one of these programs, more than 215,000 communications were intercepted, opened, and photographed.


A stakeout is the coordinated surveillance of a location or person. Stakeouts are generally performed covertly and for the purpose of gathering related to . The term derives from the practice by s of using to measure out an area before the main building project begins.

Internet of things

The (IoT) is a term that refers to the future of technology in which data can be collected without human and computer interaction. IoTs can be used for identification, monitoring, location tracking, and health tracking. While IoTs have the benefit of being a time-saving tool that makes activities simpler, they raise the concern of government surveillance and privacy regarding how data will be used.



Supporters of surveillance systems believe that these tools can help protect society from and . They argue that surveillance can reduce crime by three means: by deterrence, by observation, and by reconstruction. Surveillance can deter by increasing the chance of being caught, and by revealing the . This requires a minimal level of invasiveness.Deviant Behaviour – Socially accepted observation of behaviour for security
Jeroen van Rest
Another method on how surveillance can be used to fight criminal activity is by linking the information stream obtained from them to a recognition system (for instance, a camera system that has its feed run through a facial recognition system). This can for instance auto-recognize fugitives and direct police to their location. A distinction here has to be made however on the type of surveillance employed. Some people that say support video surveillance in city streets may not support indiscriminate telephone taps and vice versa. Besides the types, the way in how this surveillance is done also matters a lot; i.e. indiscriminate telephone taps are supported by much fewer people than say telephone taps done only to people suspected of engaging in illegal activities. Surveillance can also be used to give human operatives a tactical advantage through improved situational awareness, or through the use of automated processes, i.e. . Surveillance can help reconstruct an incident and prove guilt through the availability of footage for forensics experts. Surveillance can also influence subjective security if surveillance resources are visible or if the consequences of surveillance can be felt. Some of the surveillance systems (such as the camera system that has its feed run through a facial recognition system mentioned above) can also have other uses besides countering criminal activity. For instance, it can help on retrieving runaway children, abducted or missing adults and mentally disabled people. Other supporters simply believe that there is nothing that can be done about the loss of privacy, and that people must become accustomed to having no privacy. As CEO said: "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." Another common argument is: "." Which follows that if one is engaging in unlawful activities, in which case they do not have a legitimate justification for their privacy. However, if they are following the law the surveillance would not affect them.


With the advent of programs such as the program and , technologies such as and software, and laws such as the , governments now possess an unprecedented ability to monitor the activities of their subjects. Many and groups, such as the and , have expressed concern that by allowing continual increases in government surveillance of citizens we will end up in a society, with extremely limited, or non-existent political and/or personal freedoms. Fears such as this have led to numerous lawsuits such as '. Some critics state that the claim made by supporters should be modified to read: "As long as we do what we're told, we have nothing to fear.". For instance, a person who is part of a political group which opposes the policies of the national government, might not want the government to know their names and what they have been reading, so that the government cannot easily subvert their organization, arrest, or kill them. Other critics state that while a person might not have anything to hide right now, the government might later implement policies that they do wish to oppose, and that opposition might then be impossible due to mass surveillance enabling the government to identify and remove political threats. Further, other critics point to the fact that most people ''do'' have things to hide. For example, if a person is looking for a new job, they might not want their current employer to know this. Also if an employer wishes total privacy to watch over their own employee and secure their financial information it may become impossible, and they may not wish to hire those under surveillance. In December 2017, the Government of China took steps to oppose widespread surveillance by security-company cameras, webcams, and s after tens-of-thousands were made accessible for internet viewing by IT company


Programs such as the program, and laws such as the have led many groups to fear that society is moving towards a state of with severely limited personal, social, political freedoms, where dissenting individuals or groups will be strategically removed in -like purges. Kate Martin, of the Center For National Security Studies said of the use of military spy satellites being used to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens: "They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state." Some point to the blurring of lines between public and private places, and the privatization of places traditionally seen as public (such as shopping malls and industrial parks) as illustrating the increasing legality of collecting personal information. Traveling through many public places such as government offices is hardly optional for most people, yet consumers have little choice but to submit to companies' surveillance practices.Agre, Philip E. (2003)
"Your Face is not a bar code: arguments against automatic face recognition in public places"
Retrieved November 14, 2004.
Surveillance techniques are not created equal; among the many identification technologies, for instance, requires the least cooperation. Unlike automatic fingerprint reading, which requires an individual to press a finger against a machine, this technique is subtle and requires little to no consent.

Psychological/social effects

Some critics, such as , believe that in addition to its obvious function of identifying and capturing individuals who are committing undesirable acts, surveillance also functions to create in everyone a feeling of always being watched, so that they become self-policing. This allows the State to control the populace without having to resort to physical force, which is expensive and otherwise problematic. With the development of digital technology, individuals have become increasingly perceptible to one another, as surveillance becomes virtual. Online surveillance is the utilization of the internet to observe one's activity. Corporations, citizens, and governments participate in tracking others' behaviours for motivations that arise out of business relations, to curiosity, to legality. In her book ''Superconnected'', differentiates between two types of surveillance: vertical and horizontal. Vertical surveillance occurs when there is a dominant force, such as the government that is attempting to control or regulate the actions of a given society. Such powerful authorities often justify their incursions as a means to protect society from threats of violence or terrorism. Some individuals question when this becomes an infringement on civil rights. Horizontal diverges from vertical surveillance as the tracking shifts from an authoritative source to an everyday figure, such as a friend, coworker, or stranger that is interested in one's mundane activities. Individuals leave traces of information when they are online that reveal their interests and desires of which others observe. While this can allow people to become interconnected and develop social connections online, it can also increase potential risk to harm, such as or censoring/stalking by strangers, reducing privacy. In addition, argues that surveillance wields an immense racializing quality such that it operates as "racializing surveillance." Browne uses racializing surveillance to refer to moments when enactments of surveillance are used to reify boundaries, borders, and bodies along racial lines and where the outcome is discriminatory treatment of those who are negatively racialized by such surveillance. Browne argues racializing surveillance pertains to policing what is "in or out of place."


Numerous groups and groups oppose surveillance as a violation of people's right to privacy. Such groups include: , , and . There have been several lawsuits such as and by groups or individuals, opposing certain surveillance activities. Legislative proceedings such as those that took place during the , which investigated domestic intelligence programs such as , have also weighed the pros and cons of surveillance.

Court cases

was a court case in the realm of cell phone privacy, even though the decision was later overturned. In this case, Gregory Diaz was arrested during a sting operation for attempting to sell ecstasy. During his arrest, police searched Diaz's phone and found more incriminating evidence including SMS text messages and photographs depicting illicit activities. During his trial, Diaz attempted to have the information from his cell phone removed from evidence, but the courts deemed it as lawful and Diaz's appeal was denied on the California State Court level and, later, the Supreme Court level. Just three short years after, this decision was overturned in the case ''Riley vs. California'' (2014). was a case in which a man was arrested for his involvement in a drive-by shooting. A few days after the shooting the police made an arrest of the suspect (Riley), and, during the arrest, the police searched him. However, this search was not only of Riley's person, but also the police opened and searched his cell phone, finding pictures of other weapons, drugs, and of Riley showing gang signs. In court, the question arose whether searching the phone was lawful or if the search was protected by the 4th amendment of the constitution. The decision held that the search of Riley's cell phone during the arrest was illegal, and that it was protected by the 4th Amendment.

Countersurveillance, inverse surveillance, sousveillance

is the practice of avoiding surveillance or making surveillance difficult. Developments in the late twentieth century have caused counter surveillance to dramatically grow in both scope and complexity, such as the Internet, increasing prevalence of electronic , high-altitude (and possibly armed) , and large corporate and government computer databases. is the practice of the reversal of surveillance on other individuals or groups (e.g., citizens photographing police). Well-known examples include 's recording of the beating and the organization , which attempts to monitor police officers to prevent . Counter-surveillance can be also used in applications to prevent corporate spying, or to track other criminals by certain criminal entities. It can also be used to deter stalking methods used by various entities and organizations. ' is inverse surveillance, involving the recording by private individuals, rather than government or corporate entities.

Popular culture

In literature

* 's novel ' portrays a fictional surveillance society with a very simple system consisting of human operatives, informants, and two-way "telescreens" in people's homes. Because of the impact of this book, mass-surveillance technologies are commonly called "Orwellian" when they are considered problematic. * The novel ' highlights the negative effects from the overuse of surveillance at Reflection House. The central character Kerryn installs secret cameras to monitor her housemates – see also . * The book ', as well as a film and TV series based on it, portray a totalitarian Christian where all citizens are kept under constant surveillance. * In the book ', uses computers to get information on people, as well as other common surveillance methods, as a freelancer. * '','' a British written by * novel ' exhibits a world where a single company called "The Circle" produces all of the latest and highest quality technologies from computers and smartphones, to surveillance cameras known as "See-Change cameras". This company becomes associated with politics when starting a movement where politicians go "transparent" by wearing See-Change cameras on their body to prevent keeping secrets from the public about their daily work activity. In this society, it becomes mandatory to share personal information and experiences because it is The Circle's belief that everyone should have access to all information freely. However, as Eggers illustrates, this takes a toll on the individuals and creates a disruption of power between the governments and the private company. The Circle presents extreme ideologies surrounding mandatory surveillance. Eamon Bailey, one of the Wise Men, or founders of The Circle, believes that possessing the tools to access information about anything or anyone, should be a human right given to all of the world's citizens. By eliminating all secrets, any behaviour that has been deemed shameful will either become normalized or no longer considered shocking. Negative actions will eventually be eradicated from society altogether, through the fear of being exposed to other citizens This would be achieved in part by everyone going transparent, something that Bailey highly supports, although it's notable that none of the Wise Men ever became transparent themselves. One major goal of The Circle is to have all of the world's information filtered through The Circle, a process they call "Completion". A single, private company would then have full access and control over all information and privacy of individuals and governments. Ty Gospodinov, the first founder of The Circle, has major concerns about the completion of the circle. He warns that this step would give The Circle too much power and control, and would quickly lead to .

In music

* The ' song "I Am The Owl" is about government surveillance and of political groups. * The song "Hymn of Acxiom" is about corporate data collection and surveillance.


* The film ' portrays a society that uses surveillance to distinguish between people who are genetically engineered "superior" humans and genetically natural "inferior" humans. * In the movie ', the police and government intelligence agencies use in operations and for surveillance purposes. * 's crime-drama series ' regularly portrays the FBI's surveillance of the . Audio devices they use include "" placed in strategic locations (e.g., in "" and "") and hidden microphones worn by operatives (e.g., in "") and informants (e.g., in "", "" and ""). Visual devices include (e.g., in "") and video cameras (e.g., in ""). * The movie ' portrays a society wherein people are drugged with sedatives and antidepressants, and have surveillance cameras watching them everywhere they go. * The movie ' portrays the monitoring of by agents of the , the 's secret police. * The movie ' portrays many methods of . * The movie ', a 2005 directed by and written by , is about British government trying to brainwash people by media, obtain their support by fearmongering, monitor them by mass surveillance devices, and suppress or kill any political or social objection. * The movie ' a 1998 American - directed by is about using U.S. citizens' data to search their background and surveillance devices to capture everyone that is identified as "enemy". *The British TV series ' explores the potential for video surveillance to be manipulated in order to support a conviction to pursue a political agenda.

See also

* * * * * * * *


Further reading

* Allmer, Thomas. (2012). ''Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational Capitalism''. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. * Andrejevic, Mark. 2007. ''iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era''. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. * Ball, Kirstie, Kevin D. Haggerty, and David Lyon, eds. (2012). ''Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies''. New York: Routledge. * Brayne, Sarah. (2020). ''Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing''. New York: Oxford University Press. * Browne, Simone. (2015). ''Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness''. Durham: Duke University Press. * Coleman, Roy, and Michael McCahill. 2011. ''Surveillance & Crime''. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage. * Feldman, Jay. (2011). ''Manufacturing Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America''. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. * Fuchs, Christian, Kees Boersma, Anders Albrechtslund, and Marisol Sandoval, eds. (2012). "Internet and Surveillance: The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media". New York: Routledge. * , ''Database Nation; The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century''. O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. * Gilliom, John. (2001). ''Overseers of the Poor: Surveillance, Resistance, and the Limits of Privacy'', University Of Chicago Press, * Haque, Akhlaque. (2015). Surveillance, Transparency and Democracy: Public Administration in the Information Age. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. * Harris, Shane. (2011). ''The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State''. London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd. * Hier, Sean P., & Greenberg, Joshua (Eds.). (2009). ''Surveillance: Power, Problems, and Politics''. Vancouver, CA: UBC Press. * and Draffan, George (2004) ''Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control'' Chelsea Green Publishing Company. * Lewis, Randolph. (2017). ''Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America''. Austin: University of Texas Press. * Lyon, David (2001). ''Surveillance Society: Monitoring in Everyday Life''. Philadelphia: Open University Press. * Lyon, David (Ed.). (2006). ''Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon and Beyond''. Cullompton, UK: Willan Publishing. * Lyon, David (2007) ''Surveillance Studies: An Overview''. Cambridge: Polity Press. * Matteralt, Armand. (2010). ''The Globalization of Surveillance''. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. * Monahan, Torin, ed. (2006). ''Surveillance and Security: Technological Politics and Power in Everyday Life''. New York: Routledge. * Monahan, Torin. (2010). ''Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity''. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. * Monahan, Torin, and David Murakami Wood, eds. (2018). ''Surveillance Studies: A Reader''. New York: Oxford University Press. * Parenti, Christian ''The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America From Slavery to the War on Terror'', Basic Books, * Petersen, J.K. (2012) ''Handbook of Surveillance Technologies, Third Edition'', Taylor & Francis: CRC Press, 1020 pp., * Staples, William G. (2000). ''Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Post-Modern Life''. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

General information

* (Volume 66, Number 3, July–August)
ACLU, "The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society"

Balkin, Jack M. (2008). "The Constitution in the National Surveillance State", Yale Law School

Bibo, Didier and Delmas-Marty, "The State and Surveillance: Fear and Control"

EFF Privacy Resources

ICO. (September 2006). "A Report on the Surveillance Society for the Information Commissioner by the Surveillance Studies Network".

* * (April 2015)
Mass Surveillance is Driven by the Private Sector
in '

Historical information

FBI counterintelligence programs designed to neutralize political dissidents

– A Short History of Electronic Surveillance in the United States

Legal resources

EFF Legal CasesGuide to lawful intercept legislation around the world

External links

* {{Authority control Security