Definitions[edit | edit source]

Law enforcement[edit | edit source]

Surveillance is

[t]he process of maintaining watch on a target, on behalf of a single law enforcement agency, for the occurrence of originating or terminating calls that must be monitored or for any other activity that must be recorded, such as administrative changes to the service parameters.[1]

Military[edit | edit source]

Surveillance is

[t]he systematic observation of aerospace, surface or subsurface areas, places, persons,, or things, by visual, aural, photographic, or other means. Surveillance involves observing an area to collect information.[2]

Overview[edit | edit source]

Although the word "surveillance" in French, literally means "watching over",[3] the term is often used for all forms of observation or monitoring, not just visual observation. Nevertheless, the all-seeing "eye in the sky" is still a general icon of surveillance. Surveillance in many modern cities and buildings often uses closed-circuit television cameras. Although surveillance can be a useful tool for law enforcement and security companies, many people have concerns about the loss of privacy.

Surveillance is not inherently wrong or harmful, but awareness or even suspicion of surveillance in some contexts can inhibit individuals’ senses of freedom, privacy, and self-determination.[4]

"The effects of surveillance on the individual can range from anxiety and discomfort to behavioral changes such as inhibition and self-censorship, and even to the perpetration of violence against the individual. The individual need not be aware of the surveillance for it to impact his or her privacy — the possibility of surveillance may be enough to harm individual autonomy."[5]

Surveillance can impact privacy, even if the individuals being surveilled are not identifiable or if their communications are encrypted.[6]

The word "surveillance" is commonly used to describe observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment or other technological means. For example:

However, surveillance also includes simple, relatively no- or low-technology methods such as direct observation, observation with binoculars, postal interception, or similar methods.

References[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

External resources[edit | edit source]

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