Mass surveillance

Mass surveillance is the intricate surveillance of an entire or a substantial fraction of a population in order to monitor that group of citizens.[1] The surveillance is often carried out by governments or governmental organisations, but may also be carried out by corporations, either on behalf of governments or at their own initiative. Depending on each nation's laws and judicial systems, the legality of and the permission required to engage in mass surveillance varies.

Mass surveillance has often been cited as necessary to fight terrorism, to prevent social unrest, to protect national security, to fight child pornography and protect children. Conversely, mass surveillance has equally often been criticized for violating privacy rights, limiting civil and political rights and freedoms, and being illegal under some legal or constitutional systems. Another criticism is that increasing mass surveillance could lead to the development of a surveillance state or an electronic police state where civil liberties are infringed or political dissent is undermined by COINTELPRO-like programs. Such a state could also be referred to as a totalitarian state.

In 2013, the practice of mass surveillance by world[2] governments was called into question after Edward Snowden‘s 2013 global surveillance disclosure. Reporting based on documents Snowden leaked to various media outlets triggered a debate about civil liberties and the right to privacy in the digital age.[3]

By country

Privacy International's 2007 survey, covering 47 countries, indicated that there had been an increase in surveillance and a decline in the performance of privacy safeguards, compared to the previous year. Balancing these factors, eight countries were rated as being 'endemic surveillance societies'. Of these eight, China, Malaysia and Russia scored lowest, followed jointly by Singapore and the United Kingdom, then jointly by Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. The best ranking was given to Greece, which was judged to have 'adequate safeguards against abuse'.[4]

Many countries throughout the world have already been adding thousands of surveillance cameras to their urban, suburban and even rural areas.[5][6] For example, in September 2007 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated that we are "in danger of tipping into a genuine surveillance society completely alien to American values" with "the potential for a dark future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready to be examined and used against us by the authorities whenever they want."[7]

On 12 March 2013 Reporters Without Borders published a Special report on Internet Surveillance. The report included a list of "State Enemies of the Internet", countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in grave violations of freedom of information and human rights. Five countries were placed on the initial list: Bahrain, China, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam.[8]



Bahrain is one of the five countries on Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 list of "State Enemies of the Internet", countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in grave violations of freedom of information and human rights. The level of Internet filtering and surveillance in Bahrain is one of the highest in the world. The royal family is represented in all areas of Internet management and has sophisticated tools at its disposal for spying on its subjects. The online activities of dissidents and news providers are closely monitored and the surveillance is increasing.[8]


China is one of the five countries on Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 list of "State Enemies of the Internet", countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in grave violations of freedom of information and human rights. All Internet access in China is owned or controlled by the state or the Communist Party. Many foreign journalists in China have said that they take for granted that their telephones are tapped and their email is monitored.[8]

The tools put in place to filter and monitor the Internet are collectively known as the Great Firewall of China. Besides the usual routing regulations that allow access to an IP address or a particular domain name to be blocked, the Great Firewall makes large-scale use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology to monitor and block access based on keyword detection. The Great Firewall has the ability to dynamically block encrypted connections. One of the country’s main ISPs, China Unicom, automatically cuts a connection as soon as it is used to transmit encrypted content.[8]

The monitoring system developed by China is not confined to the Great Firewall, monitoring is also built into social networks, chat services and VoIP. Private companies are directly responsible to the Chinese authorities for surveillance of their networks to ensure banned messages are not circulated. The QQ application, owned by the firm Tencent, allows the authorities to monitor in detail exchanges between Internet users by seeking certain keywords and expressions. The author of each message can be identified by his or her user number. The QQ application is effectively a giant Trojan horse. And since March 2012, new legislation requires all new users of micro-blogging sites to register using their own name and telephone number.[8]

Skype, one of the world’s most popular Internet telephone platforms, is closely monitored. Skype services in China are available through a local partner, the TOM media group. The Chinese-language version of Skype, known as TOM-Skype, is slightly different from the downloadable versions in other countries. A report by OpenNet Initiative Asia[9] says everyday conversations are captured on servers. Interception and storage of a conversation may be triggered by a sender’s or recipient’s name or by keywords that occur in the conversation.[10]

On 30 January, the New York Times reported that it had been the target of attacks by the Chinese government. The first breach took place on 13 September 2012 when the newspaper was preparing to publish an article about the fortune amassed by the family of outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The newspaper said the purpose of attacks was to identify the sources that supplied the newspaper with information about corruption among the prime minister’s entourage. The Wall Street Journal and CNN also said they had been the targets of cyber attacks from China. In February, Twitter disclosed that the accounts of some 250,000 subscribers had been the victims of attacks from China similar to those carried out on the New York Times. Mandiant, the company engaged by the NYT to secure its network, identified the source of the attacks as a group of hackers it called Advanced Persistent Threat 1, a unit of the People’s Liberation Army operating from a 12-storey building in the suburbs of Shanghai that had hundreds, possibly thousands, of staff and the direct support of the Chinese government.[8]

East Germany

Before the Digital Revolution, one of the world's biggest mass surveillance operations was carried out by the Stasi, the secret police of the former East Germany. By the time the state collapsed in 1989, the Stasi had built up an estimated civilian network of 300,000 informants (approximately one in fifty of the population), who monitored even minute hints of political dissent among other citizens. Many West Germans visiting friends and family in East Germany were also subject to Stasi spying, as well as many high-ranking West German politicians and persons in the public eye.

Most East German citizens were well aware that their government was spying on them, which led to a culture of mistrust: touchy political issues were only discussed in the comfort of their own four walls and only with the closest of friends and family members, while widely maintaining a façade of unquestioning followership in public.

European Union

The right to privacy is a highly developed area of law in Europe. The Data Protection Directive regulates the processing of personal data within the European Union. For comparison, the US has no data protection law that is comparable to this; instead, the US regulates data protection on a sectoral basis.[11]

Since early 2012, the European Union has been working on a General Data Protection Regulation to replace the Data Protection Directive and harmonise data protection and privacy law. On 20 October 2013, a committee at the European Parliament backed the measure, which, if it is enacted, could require American companies to seek clearance from European officials before complying with United States warrants seeking private data. The vote is part of efforts in Europe to shield citizens from online surveillance in the wake of revelations about a far-reaching spying program by the U.S. National Security Agency.[12] European Union justice and rights commissioner Viviane Reding said "The question has arisen whether the large-scale collection and processing of personal information under US surveillance programmes is necessary and proportionate to meet the interests of national security." The EU is also asking the US for changes to US legislation to match the legal redress offered in Europe; American citizens in Europe can go to the courts if they feel their rights are infringed but Europeans without right of residence in America cannot.[13] When the EU / US arrangement to implement International Safe Harbor Privacy Principles were struck down by the European Court of Justice, a new framework for transatlantic data flows, called the "EU-US Privacy Shield", was adopted in July 2016.[14][15]

In April 2014, the European Court of Justice declared invalid the EU Data Retention Directive. The Court said it violates two basic rights - respect for private life and protection of personal data.[16] The legislative body of the European Union passed the Data Retention Directive on 15 December 2005. It requires that telecommunication operators retain metadata for telephone, Internet, and other telecommunication services for periods of not less than six months and not more than two years from the date of the communication as determined by each EU member state and, upon request, to make the data available to various governmental bodies. Access to this information is not limited to investigation of serious crimes, nor is a warrant required for access.[17][18]

Undertaken under the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7 - Science in Society[19]) some multidisciplinary and mission oriented mass surveillance activities (for example INDECT and HIDE) were funded by the European Commission[20] in association with industrial partners.[21][22][23][24]

Wikinews has related news: Listening to you at last: EU plans to tap cell phones

The INDECT Project ("Intelligent information system supporting observation, searching and detection for security of citizens in urban environment")[25] develops an intelligent urban environment observation system to register and exchange operational data for the automatic detection, recognition and intelligent processing of all information of abnormal behaviour or violence.[26][27]

The main expected results of the INDECT project are:

HIDE ("Homeland Security, Biometric Identification & Personal Detection Ethics")[28] was a research project funded by the European Commission within the scope of the Seventh RTD Framework Programme (FP7). The consortium, coordinated by Emilio Mordini,[29] explored the ethical and privacy implications of biometrics and personal detection technologies, focusing on the continuum between personal detection, authentication, identification and mass surveillance.[30]


Further information: Bill on Intelligence


In 2002 German citizens were tipped off about wiretapping, when a software error led to a phone number allocated to the German Secret Service being listed on mobile telephone bills.[31]


The Indian parliament passed the Information Technology Act of 2008 with no debate, giving the government fiat power to tap all communications without a court order or a warrant. Section 69 of the act states "Section 69 empowers the Central Government/State Government/ its authorized agency to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource if it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence or for investigation of any offence."

India is setting up a national intelligence grid called NATGRID,[32] which would be fully set up by May 2011 where each individual's data ranging from land records, internet logs, air and rail PNR, phone records, gun records, driving license, property records, insurance, and income tax records would be available in real time and with no oversight.[33] With a UID from the Unique Identification Authority of India being given to every Indian from February 2011, the government would be able track people in real time. A national population registry of all citizens will be established by the 2011 census, during which fingerprints and iris scans would be taken along with GPS records of each household.[34][35]

As per the initial plan, access to the combined data will be given to 11 agencies, including the Research and Analysis Wing, the Intelligence Bureau, the Enforcement Directorate, the National Investigation Agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Narcotics Control Bureau.


Iran is one of the five countries on Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 list of "State Enemies of the Internet", countries whose governments are involved in naturally active efforts to news providers . The government runs or controls almost all of the country’s institutions for regulating, managing or legislating on telecommunications. The Supreme Council for Cyberspace, which was headed by President Ahmadinejad, was established in March 2012 and now determines digital policy. The construction of a parallel "Iranian Internet", with a high connection speed but fully monitored and censored, is almost complete.[8]

The tools used by the Iranian authorities to monitor and control the Internet include data interception tools capable of Deep Packet Inspection. Interception products from leading Chinese companies such as ZTE and Huawei are in use. The products provided by Huawei to Mobin Net, the leading national provider of mobile broadband, can be used to analyze email content, track browsing history and block access to sites. The products that ZTA sold to the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) offer similar services plus the possibility of monitoring the mobile network. European companies are the source of other spying and data analysis tools. Products designed by Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks (later Trovicor) are in use. These companies sold SMS interception and user location products to Mobile Communication Company of Iran and Irancell, Iran’s two biggest mobile phone companies, in 2009 and they were used to identify Iranian citizens during the post-election uprising in 2009. The use of Israeli surveillance devices has also been detected in Iran. The network traffic management and surveillance device NetEnforcer was provided by Israel to Denmark and then resold to Iran. Similarly, US equipment has found its way to Iran via the Chinese company ZTE.[8]


According to a 2004 report, the government of the Netherlands carries out more clandestine wire-taps and intercepts than any country, per capita, in the world.[36] The Dutch military intelligence service MIVD operates a satellite ground station to intercept foreign satellite links and also a facility to eavesdrop on foreign high-frequency radio traffic.

North Korea


The SORM (and SORM-2) laws enable complete monitoring of any communication, electronic or traditional, by eight state agencies, without warrant. These laws seem to be in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution of Russia which states:[37]

  1. Everyone shall have the right to the inviolability of private life, personal and family secrets, the protection of honour and good name.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to privacy of correspondence, of telephone conversations, postal, telegraph and other messages. Limitations of this right shall be allowed only by court decision.

In 2015, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that the legislation violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Zakharov v. Russia).

Yarovaya Law required storage and unconditional access to private communication data for law enforcement.[38]


Prior to 2009, the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) was limited to wireless signals intelligence (SIGINT), although it was left largely unregulated.[39] In December 2009, new legislation went into effect, allowing the FRA to monitor cable bound signals passing the Swedish border.[40] Communications service providers are legally required, under confidentiality, to transfer cable communications crossing Swedish borders to specific "interaction points", where data may be accessed after a court order.[41][42][43] The number of companies affected by the legislation was estimated as "being limited (approximately ten)".[44]

The FRA has been contested since the change in its legislation, mainly because of the public perception the change would enable mass surveillance.[45] The FRA categorically deny this allegation,[40][46] as they are not allowed to initialize any surveillance on their own,[47] and has no direct access to communication lines.[48] All SIGINT has to be authorized by a special court and meet a set of narrow requirements, something Minister for Defence Sten Tolgfors have been quoted as saying, "should render the debate on mass surveillance invalid."[49][50][51] Due to the architecture of Internet backbones in the Nordic area, a large portion of Norwegian and Finnish traffic will also be affected by the Swedish wiretapping.


Syria is one of the five countries on Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 list of "State Enemies of the Internet", countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in grave violations of freedom of information and human rights. Syria has stepped up its web censorship and cyber-monitoring as the country’s civil war has intensified. At least 13 Blue Coat proxy servers are in use, Skype calls are intercepted, and social engineering techniques, phishing, and malware attacks are all in use.[8]

United Kingdom

State surveillance in the United Kingdom has formed part of the public consciousness since the 19th century. The postal espionage crisis of 1844 sparked the first panic over the privacy of citizens.[52] However, in the 20th century, electronic surveillance capabilities grew out of wartime signal intelligence and pioneering code breaking.[53] In 1946, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was formed. The United Kingdom and the United States signed the bilateral UKUSA Agreement in 1948. It was later broadened to include Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as cooperation with several "third-party" nations. This became the cornerstone of Western intelligence gathering and the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the USA.[54]

After the growth of the Internet and development of the World Wide Web, a series of media reports in 2013 revealed more recent programs and techniques involving GCHQ, such as Tempora.[55]

The use of these capabilities is controlled by laws made in the UK Parliament. In particular, access to the content of private messages (that is, interception of a communication) must be authorized by a warrant signed by a Secretary of State.[56][57][58] In addition European Union data privacy law applies in UK law. The UK exhibits governance and safeguards as well as use of electronic surveillance.[59][60][61]

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a judicial oversight body for the intelligence agencies, ruled in December 2014 that the legislative framework in the United Kingdom does not breach the European Convention on Human Rights.[62][63][64] However, the Tribunal stated in February 2015 that one particular aspect, the data-sharing arrangement that allowed UK Intelligence services to request data from the US surveillance programs Prism and Upstream, had been in contravention of human rights law prior to this until two paragraphs of additional information, providing details about the procedures and safeguards, were disclosed to the public in December 2014.[65][66][67]

In its December 2014 ruling, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found that the legislative framework in the United Kingdom does not permit mass surveillance and that while GCHQ collects and analyses data in bulk, it does not practice mass surveillance.[62][63][64] A report on Privacy and Security published by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament also came to this view, although it found past shortcomings in oversight and said the legal framework should be simplified to improve transparency.[68][69][70] This view is supported by independent reports from the Interception of Communications Commissioner.[71] However, notable civil liberties groups continue to express strong views to the contrary and plan to appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights,[72] while others have criticised these viewpoints in turn.[73]

RAF Menwith Hill, a large site in the United Kingdom, part of ECHELON and the UKUSA Agreement.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIP or RIPA) is a significant piece of legislation that granted and regulated the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation.[74] In 2002 the UK government announced plans to extend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act so that at least 28 government departments would be given powers to access metadata about citizens' web, e-mail, telephone and fax records, without a warrant and without a subject's knowledge.[75]

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 includes several provisions related to controlling and restricting the collection, storage, retention, and use of information in government databases.[76]

Supported by all three major political parties, the UK Parliament passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in July 2014 to ensure police and security services retain existing powers to access phone and internet records.[77][78] The Investigatory Powers Bill published in November 2015 for scrutiny by Parliament would require Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to maintain records of (but not the content of) customers' internet connections for 12 months. In addition, it would create a requirement for judges to review the warrants authorised by a Secretary of State before they come into force.[79][80]

Many advanced nation-states have implemented laws that partially protect citizens from unwarranted intrusion, such as the Human Rights Act 1998 and Data Protection Act 1998 in the United Kingdom, and laws that require a formal warrant before private data may be gathered by a government.

The UK is a member of the European Union, participates in its programs, and is subject to EU policies and directives on surveillance.

The vast majority of video surveillance cameras in the UK are not operated by government bodies, but by private individuals or companies, especially to monitor the interiors of shops and businesses. According to 2011 Freedom of Information Act requests, the total number of local government operated CCTV cameras was around 52,000 over the entirety of the UK.[81] The prevalence of video surveillance in the UK is often overstated due to unreliable estimates being requoted;[82] for example one report in 2002 extrapolated from a very small sample to estimate the number of cameras in the UK at 4.2 million (of which 500,000 in London).[83] More reliable estimates put the number of private and local government operated cameras in the United Kingdom at around 1.85 million in 2011.[84][85]

United States

Historically, mass surveillance was used as part of wartime censorship to control communications that could damage the war effort and aid the enemy. For example, during the world wars, every international telegram from or to the United States sent through companies such as Western Union was reviewed by the US military. After the wars were over, surveillance continued in programs such as the Black Chamber following World War I and project Shamrock following World War II.[86] COINTELPRO projects conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1956 and 1971 targeted various "subversive" organizations, including peaceful anti-war and racial equality activists such as Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.

Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, ECHELON, and NarusInsight to intercept and analyze the immense amount of data that traverses the Internet and telephone system every day.[87]

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a vast domestic intelligence apparatus has been built to collect information using NSA, FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. The intelligence apparatus collects, analyzes and stores information about millions of (if not all) American citizens, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.[88][89]

Under the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, the U.S. Postal Service photographs the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces in 2012. The U.S. Postmaster General stated that the system is primarily used for mail sorting, but the images are available for possible use by law enforcement agencies.[90] Created in 2001 following the anthrax attacks that killed five people, it is a sweeping expansion of a 100-year-old program called "mail cover" which targets people suspected of crimes.[91]

The FBI developed the computer programs "Magic Lantern" and CIPAV, which they can remotely install on a computer system, in order to monitor a person's computer activity.[92]

The NSA has been gathering information on financial records, Internet surfing habits, and monitoring e-mails. They have also performed extensive analysis of social networks such as Myspace.[93]

The PRISM special source operation system legally immunized private companies that cooperate voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. According to The Register, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 "specifically authorizes intelligence agencies to monitor the phone, email, and other communications of U.S. citizens for up to a week without obtaining a warrant" when one of the parties is outside the U.S.[94] PRISM was first publicly revealed on 6 June 2013, after classified documents about the program were leaked to The Washington Post and The Guardian by American Edward Snowden.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all U.S. telecommunications and Internet service providers modify their networks to allow easy wiretapping of telephone, VoIP, and broadband Internet traffic.[95][96][97]

In early 2006, USA Today reported that several major telephone companies were providing the telephone call records of U.S. citizens to the National Security Agency (NSA), which is storing them in a large database known as the NSA call database. This report came on the heels of allegations that the U.S. government had been conducting electronic surveillance of domestic telephone calls without warrants.[98] In 2013, the existence of the Hemisphere Project, through which AT&T provides telephone call data to federal agencies, became publicly known.

Traffic cameras, which were meant to help enforce traffic laws at intersections, may be used by law enforcement agencies for purposes unrelated to traffic violations.[99] Some cameras allow for the identification of individuals inside a vehicle and license plate data to be collected and time stamped for cross reference with other data used by police.[100] The Department of Homeland Security is funding networks of surveillance cameras in cities and towns as part of its efforts to combat terrorism.[101]

The New York City Police Department infiltrated and compiled dossiers on protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention, leading to over 1,800 arrests.[102]


Vietnam is one of the five countries on Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 list of "State Enemies of the Internet", countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in grave violations of freedom of information and human rights. Most of the country’s 16 service providers are directly or indirectly controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party. The industry leader, Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, which controls 74 per cent of the market, is state-owned. So is Viettel, an enterprise of the Vietnamese armed forces. FPT Telecom is a private firm, but is accountable to the Party and depends on the market leaders for bandwidth.[8]

Service providers are the major instruments of control and surveillance. Bloggers monitored by the government frequently undergo man-in-the-middle attacks. These are designed to intercept data meant to be sent to secure (https) sites, allowing passwords and other communication to be intercepted.[8] According to a July 2012 Freedom House report, 91 percent of survey respondents connected to the Internet on their mobile devices and the government monitors conversations and tracks the calls of "activists" or "reactionaries."[103]

Commercial mass surveillance

Further information: Mass surveillance industry

As a result of the digital revolution, many aspects of life are now captured and stored in digital form. Concern has been expressed that governments may use this information to conduct mass surveillance on their populations. Commercial mass surveillance often makes use of copyright laws and "user agreements" to obtain (typically uninformed) 'consent' to surveillance from consumers who use their software or other related materials. This allows gathering of information which would be technically illegal if performed by government agencies. This data is then often shared with government agencies - thereby - in practice - defeating the purpose of such privacy protections.

One of the most common forms of mass surveillance is carried out by commercial organizations. Many people are willing to join supermarket and grocery loyalty card programs, trading their personal information and surveillance of their shopping habits in exchange for a discount on their groceries, although base prices might be increased to encourage participation in the program. Since a significant proportion of purchases are carried out by credit or debit cards, which can also be easily tracked, it is questionable whether loyalty cards provide any significant additional privacy threat.

Through programs like Google's AdSense, OpenSocial and their increasing pool of so-called "web gadgets", "social gadgets" and other Google-hosted services many web sites on the Internet are effectively feeding user information about sites visited by the users, and now also their social connections, to Google. Facebook also keep this information, although its acquisition is limited to page views within Facebook. This data is valuable for authorities, advertisers and others interested in profiling users, trends and web site marketing performance. Google, Facebook and others are increasingly becoming more guarded about this data as their reach increases and the data becomes more all inclusive, making it more valuable.[104]

New features like geolocation give an even increased admission of monitoring capabilities to large service providers like Google, where they also are enable to track one's physical movements while users are using mobile devices, especially those which are syncing without any user interaction. Google's Gmail service is increasingly employing features to work as a stand-alone application which also might activate while a web browser is not even active for synchronizing; a feature mentioned on the Google I/O 2009 developer conference while showing the upcoming HTML5 features which Google and others are actively defining and promoting.[105]

In 2008 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, said: "The arrival of a truly mobile Web, offering a new generation of location-based advertising, is set to unleash a 'huge revolution'".[106] At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 16 February 2010, Google presented their vision of a new business model for mobile operators and trying to convince mobile operators to embrace location-based services and advertising. With Google as the advertising provider, it would mean that every mobile operator using their location-based advertising service would be revealing the location of their mobile customers to Google.[107]

Google will also know more about the customer - because it benefits the customer to tell Google more about them. The more we know about the customer, the better the quality of searches, the better the quality of the apps. The operator one is "required", if you will, and the Google one will be optional. And today I would say, a minority choose to do that, but I think over time a majority will... because of the stored values in the servers and so forth and so on....
2010 Mobile World Congress keynote speech, Google CEO Eric Schmidt[108]

Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are constantly informing users on the importance of privacy, and considerations about technologies like geolocation.

Computer company Microsoft patented in 2011 a product distribution system with a camera or capture device that monitors the viewers that consume the product, allowing the provider to take "remedial action" if the actual viewers do not match the distribution license.[109]

Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 Special report on Internet Surveillance contained a list of "Corporate Enemies of the Internet", companies that sell products that are liable to be used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. The five companies on the initial list were: Amesys (France), Blue Coat Systems (U.S.), Gamma (UK and Germany), Hacking Team (Italy), and Trovicor (Germany), but the list was not exhaustive and is likely to be expanded in the future.[8]

Surveillance state

A surveillance state is a country where the government engages in pervasive surveillance of large numbers of its citizens and visitors. Such widespread surveillance is usually justified as being necessary to prevent crime or acts of terrorism, but may also be used to stifle criticism of and opposition to the government.

Germans protesting against the NSA surveillance program PRISM at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

Examples of early surveillance states include the former Soviet Union and the former East Germany, which had a large network of informers and an advanced technology base in computing and spy-camera technology.[110] But these states did not have today's technologies for mass surveillance, such as the use of databases and pattern recognition software to cross-correlate information obtained by wire tapping, including speech recognition and telecommunications traffic analysis, monitoring of financial transactions, automatic number plate recognition, the tracking of the position of mobile telephones, and facial recognition systems and the like which recognize people by their appearance, gait, DNA profiling, etc.

Smart cities

Main article: Smart city

The development of smart cities has seen the increased adoption of surveillance technologies by governments, although the primary purpose of surveillance in such cities is to use information and communication technologies to improve the urban environment. The implementation of such technology by a number of cities has resulted in increased efficiencies in urban infrastructure as well as improved community participation.

The development of smart city technology has also led to increased potential for unwarranted intrusions into privacy and restrictions upon autonomy. The widespread incorporation of information and communication technologies within the daily life of urban residents results in increases in the surveillance capacity of states - to the extent that individuals may be unaware of what information is being accessed, when the access occurs and for what purpose. It is possible that such conditions could give rise to the development of an electronic police state.

Electronic police state

Banner in Bangkok, observed on the 30th of June 2014 during the 2014 Thai coup d'état, informing the Thai public that 'like' or 'share' activity on social media could land them in prison.

An electronic police state is a state in which the government aggressively uses electronic technologies to record, collect, store, organize, analyze, search, and distribute information about its citizens.[111][112] Electronic police states also engage in mass government surveillance of landline and cellular telephone traffic, mail, email, web surfing, Internet searches, radio, and other forms of electronic communication as well as widespread use of video surveillance. The information is usually collected in secret.

The crucial elements are not politically based, so long as the government can afford the technology and the populace will permit it to be used, an electronic police state can form. The continual use of electronic mass surveillance can result in constant low-level fear within the population, which can lead to self-censorship and exerts a powerful coercive force upon the populace.[113]

Seventeen factors for judging the development of an electronic police state were suggested in The Electronic Police State: 2008 National Rankings:[112]

The list includes factors that apply to other forms of police states, such as the use of identity documents and police enforcement, but go considerably beyond them and emphasize the use of technology to gather and process the information collected.

Mass surveillance has been prominently featured in a wide array of books, films, and other media. Perhaps the most iconic example of fictional mass surveillance is George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which depicts a dystopian surveillance state. Other media featuring mass surveillance systems include Person of Interest and other TV shows and other media types.

See also


  1. "Mass Surveillance Technologies". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  2. TATLOW, DIDI KIRSTEN (2013-06-28), U.S. Prism, Meet China\u2019s Golden Shield, [...] a Beijing lawyer named Xie Yanyi filed a public information request with the police asking about China's own surveillance operations. [...] 'Most people were critical about the U.S. and supported Snowden.' [he said...] Then the discussion started shifting to take in China's own surveillance issues.
  3. Mark Hosenball and John Whitesides. "Reports on surveillance of Americans fuel debate over privacy, security". Reuters. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  4. "Surveillance Monitor 2007 - International country rankings". Privacy International. 28 December 2007.
  5. Tom Steinert-Threlkeld (13 August 2008). "Police Surveillance: Go Snoop, Yourself". ZDNet.
  6. "YouGov / Daily Telegraph Survey Results" (PDF). YouGov. 2006. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  7. "Why a Surveillance Society Clock?". American Civil Liberties Union. 4 September 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 The Enemies of the Internet Special Edition : Surveillance, Reporters Without Borders, 12 March 2013
  9. ONI Asia, web site, OpenNet Initiative, retrieved 15 September 2013.
  10. "Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China's TOM-Skype platform", Nart Villeneuve, Information Warfare Monitor and ONI Asia, 1 October 2008.
  11. See Julia M. Fromholz, The European Union Data Privacy Directive, 15 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 471, 472 (2000); Dean William Harvey & Amy White, The Impact of Computer Security Regulation on American Companies, 8 Tex. Wesleyan L. Rev. 505 (2002); Kamaal Zaidi, Harmonizing U.S.-EU Online Privacy Law: Toward a U.S. Comprehensive Regime For the Protection of Personal Data, 12 Mich.St. J. Int’l L. 169 (2003).
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