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A nest of surveillance cameras

Surveillance means watching someone or something.[1][2] It may be secret, and many methods are used. Police and security forces may put a tap on to a person's telephone line to listen to the person's calls. Intelligence and security agencies are doing it when they put an electronic listening device, a bug, into a room.

Governments and the military have built large facilities designed to listen in to communications between other governments and military groups. For example the U.S. has a large base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, Australia, which listens to communication signals from all over the world.

Eavesdropping is a similar idea, but refers to ordinary people in normal life. It means listening to things you aren't supposed to hear. It is a deliberate act, rather than simply overhearing someone else talking.

Surveillance methods[change | change source]

WWII aerial photo of the V2 rocket test stand at Peenemünde.
Soviet truck convoy carrying atomic missiles near San Cristobal, Cuba, on Oct. 14, 1962 (taken by a U-2)

Surveillance is the secret or hidden watching of people or things with a purpose.[3] That purpose may be crime prevention or general gathering of information for a polical purpose. The results of surveillance are sometimes called "intelligence". Surveillance collects information for police, intelligence agencies, military planners or commercial firms.

This may 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).

Surveillance may include simple, relatively low-technology methods such as human intelligence agents and postal interception. On the other hand, global surveillance is done by satellite cameras on a daily basis. Such satellites are called "reconnaissance satellite" or spy satellites.

The word surveillance comes from a French phrase for "watching over" ("sur" means "from above" and "veiller" means "to watch").[4][5][6]

References[change | change source]

  1. /sərˈv.əns/ or /sərˈvləns/
  2. OED
  3. Lyon, David. 2007. Surveillance studies: an overview. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  4. Minsky M; Kurzweil R . & Mann S. 2013. The society of intelligent veillance, Proceedings of the IEEE. ISTAS. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, pp13-17.[1]
  5. Clarke R. 1988. Information technology and dataveillance. Communications of the ACM, 31(5), 498-512.
  6. Michael K. et al 2010. Planetary-scale RFID services in an age of uberveillance. Proceedings of the IEEE, 98(9), 1663-1671.[2]