The classic definition of surveillance means to put someone or something under close observation. There are now more ways to perform surveillance than at any other time in Earth’s history. Surveillance software and devices can be employed by those with honorable intentions as well as those performing belligerent or criminal activities.
What Info Can I See With Surveillance Software and Devices?
Texts & Calls: With proper search warrants, surveillance of phone calls and text messaging can produce a lot of real-time information to help achieve desired goals such as protecting society from imminent threats of life-threatening danger.
Contacts: Sometimes private investigators or law enforcement try to procure contact lists found in address books or smartphones. These contacts and the frequency with which they are contacted can often provide enough information to determine the kinds of activities that may be in play and central to the reason that surveillance is needed.
Social Media: Social media takes on many forms using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, MySpace and many others. What’s interesting about these social platforms is that many people are willing to freely post personal information about themselves in the public realm that would otherwise require search warrants from a judge. Employers often check these sources before or during the employment of employees suspected of undesirable behavior.
Pictures: In the “old days” people stored their pictures in albums and on their walls inside homes and offices. While some of that still goes on today, people are taking hundreds and thousands of more pictures using their smartphones and digital cameras. There is a treasure trove of information contained in all of those pictures. Additionally, high-powered camera lenses can capture needed photos from incredible distances. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. That could be millions of words contained in our smartphones!
Internet Controls: Every internet connection attaches to the world-wide-web through what is known as an IP address (Internet Protocols address). This IP address is very much like your physical home or office address. A package delivery can occur at your home because it is a listed physical address. Your internet connection has a similar address that includes your name. Under warrant, an IP address can be “shadowed” for what and who it reaches out to. The IP address is created by the internet provider and listed for easy reference in time of need such as maintenance and repair.
Videos: If a picture says a thousand words then a video speaks volumes, like in a book. Gone are the days of carting around clunky camera equipment (unless you are a videographer for the local television station). If something is going down, scores of people pull out their smartphones and begin video recording. Using a warrant, issued by a judge, these devices can be secured to scan their video content for needed information. Of course, private and public investigators record video to catch the planning or implementation of certain activities deemed to be affront for public safety.
GPS Location: Again, using proper warrants, people can be surveilled for their current location by the simple placement of GPS devices. Such devices can be potentially tracked all over the globe.
Email: We don’t write many paper letters for communication anymore when we can instantly write short messages for much less effort and cost. Computers can be data mined and emails are a primary source for relevant data.
Chat Rooms: Chat rooms are virtual rooms where people share what’s on their mind. Since they’re not really in a physical room they can share information anonymously. Of course, the other parties to the conversation are anonymous as well and you just might not know if it is law enforcement or another entity operating illegally that might be conversing for critical information.
Background Searches: Background searches are usually lawful searches of one’s personal information that are stored in many different locations such as the Bureau of Vital Statistics, credit reports, county clerk records, school records, etc.
All of the above information is easily gathered by tapping into phone lines, using certain radio frequencies to listen in on cell phone communications and planting software on targeted computers that discreetly transmits files from a computer to another computer in order to surveil for necessary information. Sometimes, desired information is stored on a large corporate network computer system. In those cases, a hardware tracking device is often discreetly installed and transmits desired information to another computer system.
There are so many ways to be surveilled today and while we’re not quite as a society operating like the TV show Person of Interest, we are constantly getting closer to that reality. We might be better served to live our lives as though someone was actually watching us. Who knows? It might actually be true.