What is Acoustical Surveillance?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Acoustical surveillance is a form of monitoring that employs a number of sound sensitive devices to obtain audio based information regarding a subject. Often, the act of acoustical surveillance will involve several types of equipment that will perform the important tasks of receiving, recording, and transmitting sound data. While acoustical surveillance is most commonly associated with private detectives and law enforcement, there are other uses of the procedure that are commonly employed in the business world.

Acoustical surveillance is a common means of obtaining information about conditions under water. One example is the creation of maps and schematics of the underwater terrain found in harbors, channels, rivers, and other waterways. Using sound transmitters to effectively bounce off the bottom of the waterway, it becomes possible to determine the depth of the area at any given point. Acoustical surveillance can also be utilized to obtain information about changes in terrain that may indicate the presence of a sunken ship or other man made device.


Acoustical surveillance is often employed as a means of evaluating the performance level of employees as well. Often, a sound recording will be made of random phone calls made and received by an employee. The purpose of this type of surveillance is to ensure the employee is interacting with customers and prospects in a manner that is within company guidelines. Often, this application of acoustical surveillance is helpful to the employee, as it makes retraining possible, as well as helping to provide positive data that will help in securing raises and other forms of recognition in the workplace.

Of course, acoustical surveillance is also common with law enforcement and in private investigations. By planting listening devices that are often known as bugs, it is possible to monitor the activities of individuals who are suspected of engaging in illegal or unethical activities. In some cases, the older bug has been replaced with the use of high-powered microphones that are capable of picking up conversations that are taking place anywhere from fifty to two hundred feet away. Often, recording equipment captures the bugged conversation, and can serve as evidence at a later date.


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