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Surveillance (/sərˈv.əns/ or /sərˈvləns/) is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them. This can include observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment (such as CCTV cameras), or interception of electronically transmitted information (such as Internet traffic or phone calls); and it can include simple, relatively no- or low-technology methods such as human intelligence agents and postal interception. The word surveillance comes from a French phrase for "watching over" ("sur" means "from above" and "veiller" means "to watch"), and is in contrast to more recent developments such as sousveillance.

Surveillance is used for intelligence gathering, the prevention of crime, the protection of a process, person, group or object, or for the investigation of crime. Surveillance can achieve this by three means: by deterrence, by observation and by reconstruction. Surveillance can deter by increasing the chance of being caught, and by revealing the modus operandi and accomplishes. This requires a minimal level of invasiveness. Surveillance can detect by giving human operatives accurate and live situational awareness, and / or through the use of automated processes, i.e. video analytics. Surveillance can help reconstruct an incident through the availability of footage for forensics experts, perhaps again helped by video analytics. Surveillance can also influence subjective security if surveillance resources are visible or if the consequences of surveillance can be felt. In order to determine whether surveillance technology is actually improving surveillance, the effectiveness of surveillance must be expressed in terms of these higher purposes.

With the advent of programs such as the Total Information Awareness program and ADVISE, technologies such as high speed surveillance computersand biometrics software, and laws such as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, governments now possess an unprecedented ability to monitor the activities of their subjects. Many civil rights and privacy groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union, have expressed concern that by allowing continual increases in government surveillance of citizens we will end up in a mass surveillancesociety, with extremely limited, or non-existent political and/or personal freedoms. Fears such as this have led to numerous lawsuits such as Hepting v. AT&T.

Surveillance cameras are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or IP network, and may be watched by a security guard or law enforcement officer. Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage, but analysis of footage has been made easier by automated software that organizes digital video footage into a searchable database, and by video analysis software (such as VIRAT and HumanID). The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which only record when motion is detected. With cheaper production techniques, surveillance cameras are simple and inexpensive enough to be used in home security systems, and for everyday surveillance

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