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Electronic surveillance is the use of technology to eavesdrop on someone, often without the person knowing what is happening. There are three primary electronic surveillance techniques: videotaping, photography, and audio recording. Electronic surveillance is used in the United States by officials, businesses, and homeowners for numerous reasons, including photographing speeding vehicles, monitoring shoppers, and recording illegal activities. Both federal and state governments have created laws that protect a person's right to privacy, thereby regulating the use of all electronic surveillance methods and means.
Millions of people are videotaped daily — convenience stores, shopping malls, parking lots, highways, and sidewalks could be monitored by video cameras. Protection of property typically is the main reason video cameras are used for monitoring. Countless dollars are saved each year by the deterrence of shoplifting, vehicle theft, and vandalism due to the general public knowing that security cameras are in place and are being monitored.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) in some states uses cameras to photograph license plates of drivers who speed or run stoplights. DOT can also use the cameras to help monitor traffic congestion. Some highways have surveillance to help keep an eye on areas that are known to have a high number of accidents. Subsequently, emergency personnel can be dispatched immediately to the scene to provide help to drivers and accident victims.
Police and other law enforcement agencies use recordings from electronic surveillance to help capture criminals. Many times, identification of a perpetrator is made from a recording. Recordings might be admissible in court as evidence in a trial, as well.
Homeowners often use video surveillance to protect their property. The goal typically is to prevent robbers from ever entering the home. Many times the cameras are clearly visible around the house. If a homeowner has an issue with vandalism, suspicious noises, or other problems, he or she might set up hidden video cameras to find out what is going on.
Wire tapping is electronic surveillance of telephone communications. Generally, the government, military, and law enforcement units use wire tapping more than private and business sectors do. The federal government requires that a judge give permission for a wire tap when the individuals do not know that they are under electronic surveillance. For example, if someone is suspected of money laundering or drug trafficking, a judge may give permission for local law enforcement to set up wire taps.
Bugging is another type of electronic surveillance. Small microphones pick up conversations and any noises in a bugged area. This information is transferred to a listening device and is often recorded. The laws on bugging generally are stricter than video surveillance, but less so than wire tapping. Often, a judge has to give permission for bugging an area, as well.
The NSA electronic surveillance program is called Echelon. It’s supposedly the biggest spy program in the world, and listens in on phone calls, emails, and just about any kind of electronic communication imaginable.
It listens for certain keywords that may have security significance and then forwards that information to a computer, then to an analyst for further investigation. Some people protest this use of technology by I think it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep us safe.
Electronic surveillance takes on many forms, especially in these days of text messaging and cell phones. There is now a device on the market that will read text deleted messages from a cell phone. You can plug in your cell phone’s SIM card into the device and it will retrieve any messages that you have deleted, with amazing accuracy from what I’m told. It’s kind of like a backup restore for your hard drive, except that the technology is used for mini-electronic devices. I’m told the same device is available for flash drives and mp3 players as well.
How is this surveillance? Well, it’s obvious. Parents can snoop in on their teenagers’ conversations and employers can monitor the chat
text messages going back and forth between their employees and other people. This kind of spy gear raises questions about personal liberties and privacy, but in some situations it may be necessary to prevent potential litigation or harm to the person being spied upon.
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