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Issue

Visual Surveillance

Surveillance cameras and facial recognition are used to monitor public and private spaces and to identify people. The effectiveness of this technology is up for debate, but it is nevertheless becoming both more pervasive and more invasive.

Surveillance cameras (also known as Closed-Circuit Television or CCTV) are increasingly being used to monitor public and private spaces throughout the world. The leader in this trend is the United Kingdom. Governments and law enforcement authorities have used video surveillance in various circumstances ranging from the investigation of crimes, the protection of urban environments and government buildings, traffic control, the monitoring of demonstrators and in the context of criminal investigations.

Proponents contend that video surveillance is both a deterrent to criminals and an aid to solving crime. Camera systems are usually rolled out with little prior research into the effectiveness or appropriateness of the technology, in many cases simple because the impression of heightened security is good PR for local government. Studies of the efficacy of CCTV in preventing crime have been inconclusive at best.

Facial recognition systems use computerized pattern-matching technology to automatically identify peoples’ faces. While still very much in its infancy, it raises significant public policy questions because it enables the covert identification and classification of people in public.

Visual Surveillance

In the media
Publisher: 
Pink News
Publication date: 
09-Jan-2014
Original story link: 

Mike Rispoli, Communications Manager of Privacy International told PinkNews: ”Just because it is information that can be accessed, it is unjustifiable for this company to collect and share information without my consent. People make choices every day about what they share, to whom, and on what platforms. On one site, I may share my sexual orientation, but not my political beliefs. On another, maybe I’ll share the school I attended but not my home address. In the end, its about our choice and agency over what information we give out. Companies like NameTag that want to aggregate all this information and combine it with deeply-invasive technology like facial recognition software without our permission completely expose all of us to any stranger on the street.”

Blog
Kenneth Page's picture

The proliferation of private companies across the world developing, selling and exporting surveillance systems used to violate human rights and facilitate internal repression has been largely due to the lack of any meaningful regulation.

But a huge step toward finally regulating this billion-dollar industry was taken this week, when on Wednesday night the 41 countries that make up the Wassenaar Arrangement, the key international instrument that imposes controls on the export of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, released a statement describing their intention to finally clamp down on this trade.

In the media
Publisher: 
Forbes
Publication date: 
21-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Runa Sandvik
Original story link: 

Privacy International has released a collection of 1,203 documents on the private surveillance sector, detailing mass surveillance technologies capable of covertly collecting millions of emails, text messages, and phone calls on citizens around the world. The documents mention two companies known for selling Internet monitoring technology and unpublished software vulnerabilities to the U.S. National Security Agency.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Verge
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Jacob Kastrenakes
Original story link: 

Advocacy group Privacy International has put together an extensive report on the powerful surveillance technologies being sold by private companies. The findings, it says, are "downright scary" and show that private companies are capable of acquiring spying tools just as capable as what the NSA and GCHQ are using. The details have all been collected in a database called the Surveillance Industry Index, which details the offerings of over 300 companies from across the globe. Some of the technologies being sold include a Trojan that can turn on a webcam and capture photos, software for eavesdropping, and tools that can wiretap undersea cables.

In the media
Publisher: 
Gizmodo
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Adam Clark Estes
Original story link: 

The anti-surveillance group Privacy International just published a massive store of documents related to private companies selling surveillance equipment on the global market, and the contents are unsettling. In total, there are 1,203 documents detailing 97 different surveillance technologies, including everything from sophisticated spy cameras to software that can intercept phone call data, text messages and emails—just like the NSA does. The companies are also marketing these things to some of the world's worst despots.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
Original story link: 

Stanley spoke as a new database revealed the number of private firms now selling spying tools and mass surveillance technologies. Some of the systems allow countries to snoop on millions of emails, text messages and phone calls.

The Surveillance Industry Index, which was compiled by Privacy International, has more than 1,200 brochures gathered from private trade fairs over the last four years. The events give firms a chance to tout powerful capabilities that are usually associated with government agencies such as GCHQ and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Spiegel Online
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Judith Horchert
Original story link: 

Die Menschenrechtsorganisation Privacy International hat den Surveillance Industry Index (SII) veröffentlicht, eine Übersicht von Firmen, die Überwachungstechnologie anbieten. Zu sehen gibt es mehr als 1200 Dokumente von 338 Firmen in 36 Ländern, darunter auch Deutschland.

ANZEIGE
Vier Jahre haben die Aktivisten gebraucht, um die Übersicht zusammenzustellen. Sie bauen auf den von WikiLeaks veröffentlichten Spy Files auf, aber es sind auch 400 bisher unveröffentlichte Dokumente dabei; geholfen hat unter anderem die Omega Research Foundation.

In the media
Publisher: 
Russia Today
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

Human rights groups are sounding alarms as Western firms sell mass surveillance technology in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, equipping governments and companies new capabilities to snoop on citizens.

Despite the public outcry over mass global surveillance being carried out by the NSA and the GCHQ, brought to light in May by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the scandal has not prevented tech companies and countries from closing contracts on spy technology.

That was the conclusion by Privacy International, a surveillance technology watchdog that has spent four years studying over 1,000 brochures and seminars used at technology fairs in major cities around the world, including in Dubai, Prague, Brasilia, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and London, the Guardian reported.

In the media
Publisher: 
Il Mattino
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

 L'elenco delle compagnie, pubblicato da Privacy International dopo 4 anni di lavoro, include anche un azienda italiana, la Hacking Team, fondata nel 2003 e basata - si legge nel rapporto - a Milano. Il rapporto sottolinea che «la normativa italiana per l'esportazione non regola nello specifico queste tecnologie, quindi possono finire facilmente nelle mani sbagliate». La ditta italiana sarebbe in grado di fornire sistemi di intercettazione per i cellulari come iPhone, Blackberrie e quelli basati su Windows o Symbian.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Motherboard
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Derek Mead
Original story link: 

The document trove, called the Surveillance Industry Index (SII) and released by Privacy International, and contains 1,203 documents from 338 companies in 36 countries, all of which detail surveillance technologies. Some advertised capabilities are astounding: A firm named Glimmerglass, which produces monitoring and repair equipment for undersea cables, touts in a brochure that its equipment enables "dynamic selection and distribution of signals for analysis and storage."

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