Surveillance is the act of monitoring and recording a person’s actions, movements, habits, conversation, and activities for the purpose of gathering intelligence. There are various instances and circumstances that require the use of surveillance in society today. An example is the cameras in departmental stores and malls that record the daily activities and events that go on. These cameras are useful for monitoring suspicious activity, identifying culprits in cases of theft, and the recorded videotapes are usually stored away and can be referred to whenever necessary.
Surveillance is used in various non-threatening ways that help individuals, businesses and authorities keep tabs on the happenings around them and maintain order. Surveillance can also be carried out for nefarious purposes by criminal organizations. E.g., staking out a bank to gather intelligence on the security schedule to plan a robbery.
Surveillance can be carried out in various ways using different equipment and methods and all the suggested methods below must be in concert with the governing state laws.
Types of Surveillance
Surveillance can be broken down into types based on the methods used and the equipment employed. It is classified into two types. These types include
- General surveillance: This mostly includes security cameras in buildings and stores, traffic lights and others of the sort. This type of surveillance is not directed at any particular individual, it is used to monitor general activities and identify culprits should any situation arise.
- Covert Surveillance: This type is directed at individuals or a group of people. Intelligence is gathered without their knowledge, and the personnel carrying out the surveillance conceals his presence at all times. Surveillance of this nature is done to gather Intel on a subject’s behavior either to build a case in a criminal investigation, to get valuable intel from the subject, or, like mentioned before, for nefarious purposes.
Based on methods and tactics, surveillance can be broken into:
- Physical surveillance: This is the physical “tailing” of a subject by a Licensed Private Investigator. The Investigator follows the person around, monitoring his activities, associates, and interactions. This is an old method that has been overtaken by more modern ones, but it is nonetheless still practiced. A downside to this method is that subjects can become aware of the Investigators physical presence and “shake the tail.”
- Audio surveillance: This is when bugs and similar devices are planted on a subject and is used to record the subject’s conversations. Parabolic microphones are also used, but many state laws prohibit this activity.
- Computer surveillance: A subject’s computer is broken into and compromised. Emails, files and other useful information are read and recorded.
- Covert photography and camera surveillance: Covert photography is the use of cameras to take photographs of a subject. This is usually done from a close distance; either from an unmarked vehicle or an adjacent building. The investigator taking the photographs may even follow the subject around, taking pictures of his interactions and activities. Camera or video surveillance is the use of video cameras to monitor people’s activities. CCTV cameras are used as street and traffic cameras, are connected to a centralized system and use facial recognition software to identify and track civilians in many cities around the world.
- RFID Tracking: This is the use of ID tags to track the whereabouts of an item, equipment and/or person. The tag can be placed on the subjects car and it emits a unique signal that can be identified.
- Telephone tracking: Phones are wiretapped to listen in on conversations. The Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Acts in the US requires that phone communication, including calls and texts, be made available for tracking by the government. Network companies avail their users’ phone conversations for surveillance. Phone microphones can be remotely turned on and used to listen in on conversations in its immediate surroundings. There are other technologies that track movement via the GPS of mobile phones and even their IMSI numbers.
- Social media: Social networks can be analyzed and peoples’ activities can be tracked. Information gotten from social media includes interests, friends, communities, location, etc.
- Satellite Imagery: Satellites are used mainly by government agencies to track and monitor the activities of civilians. These satellites are highly sophisticated and can track objects inside buildings, chemical traces, etc. They track in real-time and provide high-quality images.
- Corporate Surveillance: This is the collection of data on an individual or group of individuals by a corporation. The data can be used to tailor products to customers’ behaviors and regular activities, create targeted advertising campaigns, or sold to other corporations and government agencies. Surveillance can also be carried out in the workplace by installing cameras that monitor employees during work hours.
Surveillance is carried out for various reasons and although there has been a lot of controversy around the tactics and methods used by government agencies and the legality of their reasons, surveillance still remains a very useful way to gather intelligence for noble purposes.
Some of the benefits of surveillance are
- Peace of mind: Home surveillance systems provide a means to keep a watchful eye on what is going on in and around the home and this, to some extent, grants individuals peace of mind, knowing that they possess a level of control over the happenings around their home.
- Evidence: Surveillance videos, pictures, and other deliverables serve as evidence in criminal investigation cases, theft allegations and even corporate disputes between employees or between employee and the management.
- To maintain order: People tend to behave themselves when they know they are being watched. This helps maintain order and professionalism in business settings.
Surveillance is carried out by trained P.Is and government agents. It generally should not be done by regular civilians who lack the necessary skill, techniques, and technology to successfully execute it. A professional should be contacted and hired should you ever have a reason to put someone under surveillance.