Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them. This can include observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment (such as CCTV cameras), or interception of electronically transmitted information (such as Internet traffic or phone calls); and it can include simple, relatively no- or low-technology methods such as human intelligence agents and postal interception. The word surveillance comes from a French phrase for "watching over" ("sur" means "from above" and "veiller" means "to watch"), and is in contrast to more recent developments such as sousveillance.
Surveillance is used by governments for intelligence gathering, the prevention of crime, the protection of a process, person, group or object, or for the investigation of crime. It is also used by criminal organizations to plan and commit crimes such as robbery and kidnapping, by businesses to gather intelligence, and by private investigators.
Surveillance is often a violation of privacy, and is opposed by various civil liberties groups and activists. Liberal democracies have laws which restrict domestic government and private use of surveillance, usually limiting it to circumstances where public safety is at risk. Authoritarian government seldom have any domestic restrictions; and international espionage is common among all types of countries.
Official seal of the Information Awareness Office -- a U.S. agency which developed technologies for mass surveillance
Main article: Computer surveillance
The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet. In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, 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. So automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic and identify and report to human investigators traffic considered interesting by using certain "trigger" words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or chat with suspicious individuals or groups. Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, NSA, and the FBI, to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, NarusInsight, and ECHELON to intercept and analyze all of this data, and 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 Magic Lantern and CIPAV, 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 van Eck phreaking, 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 "Pinwale", which stores and indexes large numbers of emails of both American citizens and foreigners.
Main articles: Phone surveillance and Lawful interception
The official and unofficial tapping of telephone lines is widespread. In the United States for instance, the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) 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.—AT&T Inc. and Verizon—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 "National Security Letters" 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. Speech-to-text 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 Information Awareness Office, or companies such as Verint, and Narus, 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.
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 multilateration to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several cell towers 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 Edward Snowden era, Apple’s iPhone 6 has been designed to disrupt investigative wiretapping 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 encryption 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 Apple to address those concerns in order to secure their position in the global market.
Although the CALEA requires telecommunication 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 e-mails and metadata. The Snowden leaks show that the NSA 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-TRAVELLER 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 Government Communications Headquarters (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".
Main article: Closed-circuit television
A surveillance camera in Cairns, Queensland
Surveillance cameras such as these are installed by the millions in many countries, and are nowadays monitored by automated computer programs instead of humans.
Surveillance cameras are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or IP network, and may be watched by a security guard or law enforcement officer. 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 database, and by video analysis software (such as VIRAT and HumanID). The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which only record 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.
In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security awards billions of dollars per year in Homeland Security grants for local, state, and federal agencies to install modern video surveillance equipment. For example, the city of Chicago, 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 Operation Virtual Shield. Speaking in 2009, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that Chicago would have a surveillance camera on every street corner by the year 2016.
In the United Kingdom, 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 Freedom of Information Act 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 in Greater London). More reliable estimates put the number of private and local government operated cameras in the United Kingdom at around 1.85 million in 2011.
As part of China's Golden Shield Project, several U.S. corporations, including IBM, General Electric, and Honeywell, have been working closely with the Chinese government to install millions of surveillance cameras throughout China, along with advanced video analytics 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.
A payload surveillance camera manufactured by Controp and distributed to the U.S. government by ADI Technologies
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a research project called Combat Zones That See 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 Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001, police in Tampa, Florida, used Identix’s 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 traffic control, 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 (biometric 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 civil liberties. Trapwire is an example of such a network.