Nowhere to Hide – The Future of Surveillance Systems

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Technology has advanced to an extent that we have the world at the tip of our fingers. But what we do forget is that as we are watching the world, someone somewhere in the world could be watching our activities which we do online as well as offline. Scary isn’t it? Surveillance cameras or what we commonly call as CCTV’s are the in thing when it comes to security at malls, home surveillance systems, offices and even on the roads. There are even crime-fighting surveillance planes that have been introduced sparking a huge privacy controversy. An article published in the October Issue of New Scientist sheds light on this.

During the cold war, it was often claimed that spy satellites could read the headline of a newspaper left on a park bench in Moscow or Washington DC. They couldn’t: spatial resolution was nowhere near good enough. Nonetheless, the eyes in the sky were watching.

At present, any entity through legal means can commercially avail such professional services like Air & Space Evidence to acquire digital data of Earth through Earth observation photography, radar-based satellite imaging, unmanned aerial systems and aircraft for evidential and investigative purposes.

private operators are using observation satellites and drones to obtain high-resolution images and sell them to anyone who is interested.

Those eyes now see further and more clearly than ever before – though they probably still can’t read headlines. Nor are they just the preserve of intelligence services. Increasingly, private operators are using observation satellites and drones to obtain high-resolution images and sell them to anyone who is interested.

Images taken from far above are increasingly being presented as evidence in court, and the world’s first space detective agency has recently been established.

There has been remarkably little public debate about this development though it is a hot issue in legal circles. Images taken from far above are increasingly being presented as evidence in court, and the world’s first space detective agency has recently been established. Does this represent a step change in public surveillance?

Absolutely. It is easy to envisage a future in which everything we do outdoors – and perhaps indoors, given thermal imaging – can be watched, recorded and potentially used as evidence.

Some countries – notably the UK, the world’s most watched society – have been relaxed about the remorseless growth of CCTV.

After all, in some drone-patrolled parts of the world, that is already the case. Many people will be fine with that. Some countries – notably the UK, the world’s most watched society – have been relaxed about the remorseless growth of CCTV.

The hoary old pro-surveillance mantra: “if you have nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about” will be trotted out again. Such complacency is unwise. Satellites and drones threaten civil rights, notably freedom of movement, in a way that fixed CCTV cameras do not. That may prompt a backlash: acceptance is a function of who is likely to get caught. Brits, for example, are far less fond of road speed cameras.

Public spaces have generally been open for photography; aerial imagery is everywhere. But the next wave of imaging will redefine what we consider public space. Perhaps you’ll soon have to accept that someone’s always going to be reading over your shoulder.

In all probabilities, most likely it will be the public themselves who will opt for being under surveillance. The growing threat of terrorism across the world has given rise to a whole new level of research and development which boasts of enhancing security for the common people. We will see chips being inserted inside us just as we see in the movies. This reality isn’t far behind.

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