There are several types of applications of electronic monitoring equipment, such as smoke detectors, electronic monitoring bracelets, burglar alarms, baby monitors (that can be used for both babies and bed-bound adults).The security camera is one of the most wide-spread application of surveillance equipment.
Security applications of surveillance equipment also include video surveillance (cameras) and recording devices for monitoring various governmental institutions, casinos, shops and stores in order to detect and prevent criminal activity. Private surveillance methods include fire, flood, smoke detectors inside the residential areas, interior and exterior video and audio monitoring, including remote monitoring of elderly relatives via web camera or monitoring of kids’ activity via “babysitter”; automated burglary etc.
Voice Calls Monitoring Methods
Pen register tap is the security application that records basic call data, like inbound and outbound call numbers, call duration, time when call was made etc. This information is being monitored by some government organizations for security reasons.
Other popular call monitoring method is wiretapping – besides basic information about the call, it provides an access to the actual content of the call and allows monitoring it for preventing criminal or terrorist activity.
Thin Thread is the application that “would have used a technique of encrypting sensitive privacy information in order to circumvent legal concerns, and would have automatically identified potential threats”. This program was supposed to get information from both phone calls and e-mails, encrypt it to ensure caller privacy, analyze automatically and also pass for analysis by agents. Only in case potential threat is detected, information could be decrypted for more detailed processing.
Electronic video camera is definitely the most widely used surveillance equipment. In many US cities, as well as in Western European countries there are millions of video cameras that are monitoring streets and government buildings 24 hours a day. Video surveillance cameras are also used on the road, on stop lights for example, in order to register speeding and running red lights by drivers. “The innovation in video monitoring is being enhanced with new digital devices which provide a clearer picture and can zoom, tilt or pan an assigned area”. A common situation when both parents that have a baby are employed full-time made wireless nanny camera that monitors the babysitter, very popular nowadays.
Security staff of various organizations, both governmental and private, can monitor premises via a closed-circuit television system in real time.
A great advantage of video monitoring via surveillance cameras in real time is providing a responsible person with ability to react more quickly to a certain situation. In addition, recording of surveillance video has its own advantages – it gives a proof of an act and enables to review recorded materials in legal process. A main disadvantage of video surveillance is so called “blind zones” – areas that are outside the field of cameras view.
“Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage.” (Johnson, 2009) Modern surveillance cameras are monitored by automated computer programs instead of humans. They are simple and affordable for usage in day-to-day monitoring and home security systems, which is one of their biggest advantages. In order to analyze recorded video, various automated video analysis software, such as VIRAT and HumanID, was developed. These programs allow user to organize footage into a searchable database and make selecting of specific records easier and more convenient. The amount of footage can be also significantly reduced in case motion sensors are used. It means the video will be recorded only if motion is detected.
Motion lights devices work the following way – the light is activated when surveillance equipment detected a motion, caused by an object or by a person. The advantage of motion lights is that it’s one of the biggest deterrents to people, who planned to commit a crime. Especially if motion lights are used in combination with video devices, it ensures high efficiency of the method against law breakers. The lights illuminate any activity in the monitored area and the video device will record this activity providing an evidence of potential or actual crime. However, if the criminal is well-prepared, he may use motion lights for distracting attention from the real area of illegal activity and for recording fake evidences, which is the disadvantage of the device.
A motion sensor is probably the most universal electronic surveillance device that uses multiple types of sensor to detect an activity or presence. As soon as body heat or motion is detected by the sensor, an alarm is activated automatically. The device uses infrared lights, pulses, microwaves to monitor an area. Thus, several sensors used at once by the device prevent false alarms from going off and are one of its main advantages.
Listening Surveillance Devices
The listening devices, also known as “bugs”, can record voice calls or any voice conversation within a certain area. “A parabolic microphone can record conversations at a distance and can be utilized in crowded areas.” There are also listening devices that can record electronic or radio signals, as well as text messaging. In comparison with video recording devices, these ones can provide less strong evidences, and it is their disadvantage. However, in some cases, when only voice call with suspicious content took place, such devices are of a great help.
Computer Monitoring Software
A need of electronic surveillance of personal computers is stipulated by their high popularity, wide usage in different spheres of life and large amount of illegal actions, made with their help. The surveillance equipment in this case is a software program installed on a hard drive of the computer and monitored remotely on another computer to record a computer’s use. Such software monitors in real time and records communication via instant messengers, e-mails and Internet, as well as every action made on the computer using any input device.
Computer surveillance software is commonly used by businesses organizations for monitoring the computer usage by employees. There are different types of such software – some applications can monitor an Internet usage by recording URLs visited, tracking the time spent on certain websites, tracking file downloads and monitoring sent and received e-mails. Some applications can track which files are opened on the PC and which of them are edited, and it can capture screen shots from the PC in the given time intervals. Some software can track such details as the number of keystrokes one makes in a certain interval. In order to install such monitoring software, sometimes accesses to the target PCs is not even needed, since applications can be installed remotely and send data to the host PC automatically. These programs give great benefits for employers, enabling them to conclude on the each employee’s efficiency and make managerial decisions accordingly. However, at the same time, like all surveillance applications, they limit personal freedom and it’s their greatest disadvantage.
“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.” Internet contains huge amount of data that is impossible to search through manually. Therefore there are automated Internet surveillance computers that monitor intercepted traffic and report to agents in case suspicious keywords or phrases are detected. These computers also” monitor 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.”
Personal data stored on the computers makes them a surveillance target. There are different types of software that enable people to get unauthorized access to this data, for example FBI’s Magic Lantern, CIPAV and other spyware that sometimes even distributed on a freeware basis. “Another form of computer surveillance, known as TEMPEST, involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters.”
A “Pinwale” database, owned by the NSA contains billions of intercepted e-mail records of both American citizens and foreigners.
A programming language “Hancock”, developed by AT&T, can search through the largest databases of e-mails, phone calls and Internet traffic records and make reports about people who are calling, text messaging or e-mailing each other on a regular basis, as well as about people who visit some Internet web sites regularly.
Smart and Key Cards
Plastic cards that have a magnetic strip for storing information are called key cards and smart cards. There are different types of information, used for surveillance that can be stored on smart cards, such as digital certificates, biometric data, encryption algorithms etc. The main difference and advantage of smart cards is that they can process and store more complex information than key cards. An advantage of key cards is that they can be used for unlocking certain areas and providing access to these areas, when needed. As a surveillance tool, smart cards and key cards are used for tracking cardholder movements through restricted areas. A disadvantage of these cards is that they are commonly forged by trespassers and intruders for gaining access to restricted areas or to restricted private information of cardholders.