Mass surveillance/Technology

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Concept.png Mass surveillance/Technology
Type technology

Aerial Surveillance

In December 2014 it was announced that Italian Reaper UAVs are to be used to monitor soccer games and demonstrations in Italy’s cities, following a deal struck between the Italian Air Force and the country’s police forces.[1]

Hand Held Radar

In January 2015, it was first reported that since 2012 the United States Marshals Service has been using hand held radars which can "see through walls". Originally developed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are sensitive enough to detect human breathing within 50 feet.[2]

Cellphone Surveillance Tools

Termed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation "an unconstitutional, all-you-can-eat data buffet"[3] Stingray phone trackers are IMSI-catchers (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), a cellular phone surveillance device, manufactured by the Harris Corporation. Used since at least 2006, their use became public knowledge around 2012. They allow collection of data stored on phones, listening in on calls, blocking calls and man-in-the-middle attacks to capture all data.

X-Ray Vans

The Z Backscatter Van can scan while driving alongside a line of vehicles or while parked as they pass by. (American Science and Engineering Inc.)

In 2015 a US judge required that more details be published about the unmarked vans with which NYPD uses X-Rays to carry out surveillance on citizens.[4]

Licence Plate Readers

In January 2015, it was first reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration had initiated a massive nation wide scheme to coordinate automated collection of car license plates, coordinating DEA-owned automatic license plate readers with readers controlled by the Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies of the US government. Documents released under FOIA note that the aims are "to identify travel patterns" but the primary aim is "civil asset forfeiture." A slideshow released under FOIA suggested that the database had over 343 million records.[5] In 2014 the LAPD argued in a US court that all license plate data was required to aid in ongoing investigations.

"Taken to an extreme, the agencies’ arguments would allow law enforcement to conduct around-the-clock surveillance on every aspect of our lives and store those records indefinitely on the off-chance they may aid in solving a crime at some previously undetermined date in the future. If the court accepts their arguments, the agencies would then be able to hide all this data from the public." - EFF, 2014[6]

Facial Recognition

This used to require a lot of computing power, but software and hardware improvements, together with greater databases have been making it increasingly effective.


In February 2015, it was revealed that the UK Police uploaded up to 18 million "mugshots" to a facial recognition database linked to facial recognition software, which they claimed complied with the UK Data Protection Act. Such technology is already used by MI5, MI6 and Border Force.[7] In March 2015, United States Customs and Border Protection announced its use of real time facial recognition.[8]


The TSA has reportedly been developing systems to analyse moods and emotions based on facial microgestures, while in the UK 'walk signatures' are computer analysed.[9] The FBI is building on its database of 100 million individual records and expects to have 52 million facial images by 2015.[10]

Electronic tagging

In 2017, Heiko Maas suggested Electronic tagging should be carried out under the "war on terror" pretext on those whom the German government deemed to be a "general threat".[11]


In San Diego, streetlights are being equipped with video cameras, microphones and other sensors.[12]