What is it?
Surveillance refers to the monitoring of the behavior of a person, group or event. Surveillance may be covert (without one’s knowledge) or overt (in plain view). The term surveillance is commonly used to describe observation from a distance, either literally or figuratively. Surveillance as it is most currently practiced is performed by means of electronic equipment, or interception of electronically transmitted information (such as Internet traffic or phone calls). Technological advances in electronic and computer capabilities have given rise to what is generally termed technical surveillance. Technical surveillance has given traditional field operatives from an investigative vantage point, a much broader field of operation. It is of significance to note that surveillance can also refer to simplistic and relatively unsophisticated technological methods such as human intelligence agents. Surveillance is one form of intelligence gathering and dependent upon the scope and nature of the intelligence obtained, it may serve to monitor potential threats, provide evidence to prosecute criminals or defend against lawsuits, inform, educate, as well as prepare, protect and/or insulate against crimes or dishonesty.
How is it commonly performed?
With ever increasing technology “commonly performed” surveillance practices may be better defined in the context of each individual objective, the financial resources available, and the guidelines of the governing jurisdictional authority. The Federal and State Government, as well as local law enforcement entities have at their disposal an assortment of alphabet soup type “lettered entities” (ADVISE, CALEA, etc.) authorized with the jurisdictional authority to tap into or intercept typical communication channels that include, but are not limited to mechanisms such as telephones, Internet traffic, postal interception, database systems, etc. Private Investigators/Detectives are legally authorized with a level of jurisdictional authority less intrusive than that of the government but greater than that of a private citizen. With the advent of technology and various software programs the ability to monitor people, groups, events and activities is unprecedented.
Computer surveillance - there is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it. Therefore, automated internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted internet traffic, filter it out, and report to human investigators those bits of information which are interesting, noteworthy or against company policy; e.g., words, phrases or the visiting of certain websites can be triggers. Computers themselves are also a surveillance option because of the vast personal data stored on them (see our link for forensic data recovery).
Traditional surveillance techniques that involve no or low technological support generally entail eye witnessed observations and/or basic audio/video documentation. This level of surveillance is often performed by way of an investigator/detective obtaining video and/or audio footage by conducting fixed, foot or mobile surveillance operations from a discrete location.
Who needs surveillance and why?
There are a multitude of reasons why surveillance may be warranted and needed. Surveillance offers the potential to preserve and protect one’s interest in both the public and private sectors as it relates to either business or personal matters. The unauthorized and often illegal use of video cameras by private citizens has dramatically increased over the years, however private citizens are oftentimes unaware of the law, and know little about the limitations and restrictions clearly defined in the camera's illegal usage and under privacy laws, regarding stalking, etc. When surveillance is legally conducted by licensed professionals in conjunction with either simple or more complex investigative procedures, it can serve as an excellent tool for documentation of evidence to corroborate, refute or reveal assertions, contentions or actions. The stark rise in insurance fraud, employee theft, employee misconduct, as well as discriminate acts of neglect and/or abuse by employees serving America’s geriatric population are a few of the more common or routine circumstances warranting surveillance operations. The National Intelligence Agency, Inc. provides both technical surveillance, as well as covert human operative field surveillance for businesses, corporations and governmental entities.