from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Surveillance cameras

Surveillance is the targeted observation and collection of information on objects , people , groups of people or objects by third parties who are not involved in the process. Observation is a special form of surveillance . The monitoring of natural phenomena or operational processes is also called monitoring .

The term is also used in a few other contexts, it is sometimes given negative connotations (e.g. surveillance state ).


Surveillance measures can serve to increase the safety of human life, the observation of natural phenomena, military intelligence purposes, or the preservation of the value of buildings and investments.

One differentiates among other things:

Modern data acquisition is making increasing use of technologies from the field of electronic communication , especially the Internet of Things , where each sensor in a sensor network also represents a processor and a communication unit at the same time. These technologies allow quick and large-scale or area-wide collection of information. The effectiveness of the evaluation of the mass data obtained in this way (keyword: big data ) depends very much on efficient methods from data mining , pattern recognition and artificial intelligence . By systematically linking data collection, automatic analysis and rapid dissemination, early warning systems inform the potentially affected population in good time so that they can save or protect themselves.

Monitoring of objects and natural hazards

Since the topic of "surveillance" has been discussed so intensely in society, the term has slipped into the negative. However, there are numerous monitoring areas that are generally desired or against which there is little criticism. In Germany, for example, depending on the individual area of ​​responsibility and legal situation, these fall under the sovereignty of the federal government, the federal states, the districts, districts or municipalities, or, for example, the area of ​​responsibility of operators of technical systems. These include:

Monitoring of natural hazards

Monitoring of natural phenomena

Monitoring the spread of diseases

Monitoring tasks in technology

Panoptic prison for easier surveillance of prisoners, built in 1928 under the Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado
Police mobile video surveillance at a demonstration

Monitoring of people and groups

The monitoring of private individuals or companies through technical or other measures by state bodies is generally strictly regulated in constitutional states . In Germany, this includes the Telecommunications Surveillance Ordinance and numerous other, in some cases very specific, laws such as the BKA Act . In addition, in the are Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) many legal restrictions on the authorities provided so must policing measures (see § 100a Code of Criminal Procedure) in general, except for exceptions such as imminent danger , only after a court order be carried out (see, eg, § 100e StPO).

Personal surveillance measures are usually used by state services ( police , state police , secret services ), but they can also be used to monitor employees in companies . The exchange of data collected by government services with that of companies is seen as increasingly problematic.

Audiovisual employee monitoring is in Germany illegally, while for example in the US or in the UK the employers will be allowed to legally their employees using the workplace to monitor cameras installed. In contrast to German companies, US companies are also allowed to read their employees' e-mail traffic.

The level of surveillance is a hotly contested and very problematic issue. On the one hand, in the Scandinavian countries and in Great Britain, for example, the new forms of electronic control are being praised as an “achievement of democracy”. On the other hand, the European Court of Justice, for example, fears in its derivation for the right to data protection a restriction of freedom of expression . If the citizens no longer know when and to what extent they are being watched, they will also behave more cautiously (in the sense of “adapted”) for fear of repression .

Monitoring with the support of GPS transmitters and location technology

In Germany, the use of GPS location technology in the private sector for personal surveillance is a criminal offense. The district court of Lüneburg has assessed the attachment of a GPS transmitter to a foreign vehicle by a detective agency as a criminal offense (Az. 26 Qs 45/11). In the opinion of the court, creating a movement profile of the person concerned constitutes a violation of the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). It violates the basic rights to informational self-determination . The Mannheim Regional Court has now also adopted this view in a judgment in December 2012 (Ref .: KLs 408 Js 27973/08).

Investigative authorities, e.g. B. Police, may only use GPS transmitters under certain conditions; this is regulated in Germany in § 100h StPO. There must be (the suspicion of) a criminal offense of considerable importance.

In Austria tracking devices are routinely attached to vehicles during observations. Only when the target person discovers the tracking device should every detective quickly issue a declaration of cease and desist and thus prevent an action for an injunction. There are no further consequences for the detectives. Since a tracking device on a vehicle does not necessarily only record movement data of a person, there are no problems with the state authority. Usually more than one person has access to the vehicle. A tracking device is nowadays almost indispensable for an observation.

Surveillance with video cameras

Camera surveillance in a subway station

Another form of surveillance, usually by cameras, is used in public places, e.g. B. train stations, used as a security measure. In Germany, model projects were carried out in this regard , for example in Regensburg , which encountered fierce resistance from data protectionists . Video surveillance is no longer a model project, but is used in public places in many cities. " Marketing requirements" are sometimes given as a reason, for example in the Upper Austrian city of Wels . Even department stores are under video surveillance in general to prevent shoplifting.

There are efforts to automatically evaluate the video recordings by means of software, often called face recognition or pattern matching , and to compare them with existing images of people. Short recordings of a few signals, for example of the eye area, are now sufficient for unambiguous detection. With the use of this technology it would no longer be possible to anonymously take part in political demonstrations, for example. Civil rights activists fear a global database of protesters or enormous reprisals if, for example, the police passed photos of demonstrators on to the respective employers.

The first surveillance cameras were developed as so-called robot cameras as early as 1950 , in which the release and the film advance were automated. They were u. a. Used in traffic monitoring and for motorized measuring processes or for special series recordings . Later copies could be controlled magnetically or electrically.

Monitoring of flight passengers

In air traffic, the USA requires the transfer of passenger data ( passenger list ). A system for the early detection of "terrorists" is being further developed. One looks for suspicious patterns in order to expose terrorists. The defense company Lockheed-Martin was commissioned by the US transportation authority Transportation Security Administration to further expand the "Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening" (CAPPS) system. There is also resistance to this. Foreigners and opponents of the war are monitored particularly closely.

Monitoring of parcel and letter traffic

As more and more people use fax and e-mail today, the importance of v. a. international correspondence. The interception of mail remains an important task of the secret service.

There is no easy way to tell if the personal mail has been read or not. Since the postal service uses sorting machines that occasionally damage letters, even such damage is not a sure sign of surveillance.

In some cases, large amounts of data are now also sent by post with CDs. If you want to protect this data from unauthorized access, you should z. For example , encrypt with a secure encryption program, such as GPG , before “burning” .

Audio surveillance

In addition to conventional methods such as hidden eavesdropping devices (also known as “bugs”), there is also the more unusual method of optically listening in using a laser microphone .

Monitoring of employees

When introducing and using technical equipment to monitor the performance and behavior of employees in Germany , the provisions of the Works Constitution Act must be observed in addition to data protection regulations .

Monitoring of individuals

Particularly in the field of secret services and the police , the targeted surveillance of people is an important means of registering the activities of suspects, investigating or even preventing criminal acts. Depending on the explosive nature of the operation, an immense amount of personnel and material is required. An observation in the narcotic milieu can tie up a dozen people and several vehicles over periods of time from days to weeks or even years. In such a case, it is common for a team in the office to monitor the suspect's communication links (see also tapping ) and to be in contact with the people on site by radio or telephone so that the knowledge gained from the surveillance is immediately relevant for the incident and to inform the people on site.

Several observation units are in the immediate vicinity of the whereabouts of the person (s) under observation, usually individuals or groups of two. Depending on the expected movements of the suspect, suitable means of transport are available and occupied, both two-wheelers and cars. It is also quite normal that rooms or apartments are rented from which visual observation takes place and where the communication links between the forces involved come together at the same time. There are also cases in which cameras are hidden in an unmanned vehicle. B. monitor the house entrance and transmit the recorded images via radio relay to a slightly further positioned vehicle in which the observation team is sitting.

The individual observing forces usually maintain contact with one another on site by radio . The devices are usually worn in a concealed manner, and listeners use wireless earphones, which are barely recognizable and look like conventional hearing aids anyway. Most people talk via microphones hidden in clothing, for example attached to a shirt collar or jacket. Depending on the explosiveness of the observation and the type of agency carrying it out, the radio communication is open and can be intercepted by anyone with a radio scanner or digitally encrypted. If the target person leaves the whereabouts, an attempt is made to shadow the person with two to three teams. If it is not known in advance how the person is moving, then leaving the whereabouts is a critical moment at which the supervisors have to quickly determine which means of transport is being used in order to take up the pursuit as quickly as possible.

A certain jargon has also developed among the observation teams, which may vary depending on the region. Observers who are on the move as pedestrians are often referred to as "footers". The monitored person is referred to as the “target person” or “TP”, any informers or undercover investigators who are in contact with the target person and the investigators are referred to as “confidante” or “TP”. If the observation is to end in an arrest, this is called "access", and the command for this is often a previously agreed password or a signal tone over the radio.

Long-term observation, i.e. H. continuously longer than 24 hours or on more than two days, is a criminal procedural measure according to § 163f StPO and is subject to judge's reservation . In the case of imminent danger , the public prosecutor's office or the police may order long-term observation, but judicial approval must be obtained within three working days.

Telephone surveillance

In Germany, eavesdropping on telephone calls is relatively easy for secret services and law enforcement agencies. The Heise News Ticker describes Germany as the world champion in telephone surveillance. In 2006 , the regulatory authority for telecommunications and post counted more than 40,000 telephone surveillance (not to be confused with wiretapping) in Germany.

However, this only applies to the number of monitored connections. Those affected often have several connections (e.g. ISDN and various prepaid cards for mobile phones) or change them during ongoing surveillance. The high number of monitored connections arises because for each connection (= phone number), in contrast to other countries, a resolution must be available. In terms of the number of people monitored, Germany is in the lower mid-range.

In addition to the direct eavesdropping of telephone calls and the targeted monitoring of telephone connections, it is increasingly the case that a large number of connections are monitored in an untargeted manner. This is justified with averting danger (e.g. counter-terrorism).

On the one hand, the connection data is listed and the communication relationships are evaluated over long periods of time. For example, it is checked who is on the phone with whom and what relationship the partners are. On the other hand, voice recognition programs allow you to automatically listen for key words such as “bomb” or for suspicious word combinations such as Palestine and freedom, to mark the connection data and to recommend it for an intensive check. For a long time, all of Germany's international lines ran through the Frankfurt location of a global computer network of the National Security Agency (NSA), which became known under the name Echelon .

Some federal states, including Thuringia, Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, have now introduced authorization standards in their police and hazard prevention laws that enable telephone monitoring for preventive purposes. However, the state legal regulation of preventive telecommunications surveillance is tightly limited; the Federal Constitutional Court has declared the provision in question (Section 33a NSOG) in the Lower Saxony Security and Order Act to be unconstitutional. The Saxon regulation was rejected as unconstitutional by the Saxon State Court.

Total information awareness

A comprehensive electronic monitoring system called Total Information Awareness (TIA) (later Terrorist Information Awareness ) for data mining at home and abroad has been planned for the Information Awareness Office of the United States Department of Defense since early 2002 . It should open up all available sources of information. The US University of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has launched the Government Information Awareness (GIA) information project as a counter-project to TIA . With the help of this platform, data on persons and institutions of governments are to be collected and made available to the public.

After TIA was discontinued by the congress in mid-2003, the successor program ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement) was initiated.

The EU project INDECT

The EU project INDECT explored "crime prevention" based on the automated evaluation and linking of images from surveillance cameras of the public space with a large number of other data sources, such as data from social networks and telecommunications surveillance . Among other things, video analysis should automatically detect “abnormal behavior” of people in public. Critics see tendencies towards a surveillance state in the EU research project that will run until 2013 .

PC monitoring programs

With certain surveillance programs, unsuspecting computer "co-users" can be spied on without being noticed. The "controller" can subsequently monitor all activities. Passwords ( PIN , TAN ) are also unprotected from this; in online banking, this can result in a change in liability in the event of damage, as the banks forbid the recording of passwords. It is legal to acquire and install such programs - only use them if you control your own activities. Even in the case of property disturbances and divorce proceedings, the use is illegal, but it can still be included in the judge's free assessment of evidence . In Austria there is only the right to refrain from illegal surveillance. PC monitoring programs also include screen monitoring programs that record or transmit the screen content.

Contactless RFID chip

The use of RFID technology offers further options for data collection and monitoring . RFID stands for Remote Frequency Identifier or Radio Frequency Identification and allows contactless reading of data (a possibly worldwide unique ID ) without special positioning, originally developed to read the barcode e.g. B. on food or other objects without handling. In order to mark an object using RFID, a so-called RFID tag must be attached, the antenna of which only needs to be a few millimeters in size in order to be able to send data over several meters, depending on the frequency range and energy source .

RFID tags are tacitly incorporated into more and more consumer products in the interests of manufacturers or distributors without informing users. Since such a “product label” theoretically has the same lifespan as the product lifespan, the user becomes a changing sender of information about the goods or products that he carries with him.

Used RFID among other things, on identification documents ( passport ) and cash cards.

Types of monitoring and their implementation

Personal surveillance risks

The main risk of surveillance is that the owner of the data obtained during surveillance is not the owner of the data and the owner has no control over the data. The data obtained during monitoring may be misused, falsified or deliberately misused without consent . As long as the terms data security and data protection are used randomly in the relevant laws , no clarity can be expected. In addition, for reasons of traditional state understanding of violence, the ownership of personal data is not generally and independently defined.

Errors and wrong decisions often occur as a result of incorrect, incorrectly read or incorrectly interpreted data. The pressure to adapt associated with (assumed or actual) monitoring appears dangerous to many. This fiction in particular was highlighted in 1983 in the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court on the census .

The individual risks

Based on Roger Clarke, the following risks of monitoring through the use of data ("dataveillance") should be mentioned:

  • when monitoring individuals
    • Misidentification (data is assigned to the wrong person)
    • poor quality of the data used
    • Use of data outside of its original context and the resulting risk of misinterpretation
    • poor quality decisions
    • lack of knowledge of the person concerned about the surveillance
    • lack of consent of the person concerned
    • Inclusion in blacklists
    • Denial of deletion or correction
  • in the case of mass surveillance of groups of people or the entire population
    • Risks for those affected:
      • Arbitrary surveillance because it is suspicious and independent of the occasion
      • Linking of data outside of its original context and the resulting risk of misinterpretation
      • Complexity and misunderstanding of data from different sources
      • Witch hunting by drawing conclusions from certain statistical probabilities that are not always correct
      • Advance Discrimination and Guilt Prediction
      • Manipulation through targeted selective advertising
      • Reversal of the burden of proof, for example if the person concerned can only have an automated decision checked individually through a subsequent objection and then has to justify his objection
      • secret surveillance
      • unknown allegations and accusers
      • Refusal to proceed according to the rule of law
    • Risks to society:
      • Climate of suspicion because everyone is suspect
      • Blackmail by groups of people with privileged access to data (see e.g. the secret service blackmail scandal in Italy 2006 )
      • Opposition between supervisors and monitored because supervisors often do not understand the automated decision-making process, but do not want to admit it, and are often more concerned with work management than with the relationship with those concerned
      • Concentration of law enforcement on easily ascertainable and provable criminal offenses instead of professional and organized crime, thereby:
        • unequal law enforcement
        • Loss of respect for the law and law enforcement agencies
        • individual actions become less important
      • Loss of independence and self-determination
      • Despising individuality
      • Increase in the tendency to disengage from official society
      • Weakening the moral bond of society
      • Destabilization of the desired balance of power
      • repressive potential for a totalitarian government
      • Loss of citizens' trust in their government

Sensitivity in Germany

Police officers systematically take photos of participants at a major event in Berlin

The particular sensitivity of Germans to any form of surveillance, in contrast to Anglo-American countries, can be traced back to the surveillance of the population practiced under National Socialism . The network of unofficial employees who spied on large parts of the population, which was established by the State Security in the GDR and uncovered after the fall of the Wall , also contributes to a particular sensitivity. Under certain conditions, the constitutional protection offices or police in Germany can monitor people.


Surveillance has the consequence, among other things, that the monitored behave in a more compliant manner (to what is specified according to the current moral and value concepts), that is, "normalize" their behavior in advance, at least when they believe they are being monitored and the behavior is adapted opens up a credible perspective. This does not necessarily mean that the will of the monitored is permanently bent, but they usually pay more attention to their external effect - very similar to that of an actor . This "forced to play " to Michel Foucault in his book Discipline and Punish described, the Monitored experiences usually as a burden that made him in his (perceived) freedom restricts a previously external to the individual approach supported disciplining and sanctioning is in the individual shifts itself (e.g. as scissors in the head , obedience hurrying ahead , see also panoptism ). Furthermore, there is a risk that the surveillance, which almost everyone perceives unconsciously (e.g. at petrol stations, train stations, airports ...) becomes so common for people and that they get used to it, and that it leads to various organizations It will be easy to monitor him according to the principle of the panopticon (you always have to expect to be seen and heard).

More recent scientific findings from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have shown that the mere presence of a face in a room (e.g. in a photo) significantly increases the conformity of what is “monitored by the face”, even if it is clear to the monitored is that this face is just a picture . Obviously, the process of adjusting behavior when monitored is deeply rooted in people. In an experiment at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne it was shown that the mere presence of a picture of eyes also prevents egoistic behavior and leads to more cooperation .

Specifically, it is emphasized in the media that the feeling of permanent observation can lead to fewer people showing up at a demonstration; surveillance could "undermine social and democratic activities as well as trust in the state or society". Even a "diffuse feeling of being observed" can lead to a change in behavior, namely if a person has the sensation - regardless of whether this is objectively justified or only subjective - that he is moving in an area with a high probability of crime, exposed to suspected crime.

Secret service extortion scandal in Italy in 2006

There was a serious example of the systematic abuse of surveillance systems in Italy in 2006, in which several thousand people were systematically bugged and blackmailed with this data , with the participation of the security officer of Telecom Italia , organized crime and employees of various police units and secret services . Was arrested at that time also Marco Mancini, the deputy head of the Italian military secret service SISMI , who played a leading role in the interception and blackmail ring, and in which in addition extensive documentation concerning the illegal spying on political opponents of the then heads of government Silvio Berlusconi found were. Roberto Preatoni, one of the key figures in the scandal, called the events so complex that they could "probably never be completely cleared up." Italian and US secret services, corrupt Italian police officers, and Italian and US security companies were involved. A sensation caused a sensation that the main witness for the prosecution, the former security officer of the mobile communications division of Telecom Italia, fell from a motorway bridge in unexplained circumstances in Naples one month after the discovery of the scandal and died.

See also


on the subject of location technology:

  • Lorenz Hilty, Britta Oertel, Michaela Wölk, Kurt Pärli : Localized and identified. How positioning technologies change our lives , vdf Hochschulverlag, Zurich, 2011, ISBN 978-3-7281-3447-9 .

for personal surveillance:



Films that address surveillance:

Web links

Commons : Surveillance  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Monitoring  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ TAZ: Government passes on confidential police data . April 21, 2009.
  2. Observation - SecurityWiki
  3. Archived copy ( Memento of the original from April 13, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (Link reported as dangerous, redirect on @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. TP: opponents of war on CAPPS watch list
  6. heise online - Bavaria is pushing ahead with telephone surveillance
  7. Federal Network Agency - Statistics of the criminal procedural surveillance measures of telecommunications
  8. Roger Clarke's 'IT and Dataveillance' ( Memento from June 16, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (English)
  9. see e.g. B. the expression “normalization” of behavior in advance in: Jessica Heesen : The controlled self. Why surveillance harms us all. Federal Agency for Civic Education, September 18, 2013, accessed on March 12, 2014 .
  10. TP: Under observation
  11. Patrick Beuth: Video surveillance. The police, your friend and cameraman. Zeit online, March 18, 2013, accessed February 19, 2014 .
  12. Study: Surveillance undermines the presumption of innocence. Heise, January 22, 2013, accessed February 19, 2014 .
  13. Patrick Beuth: Algorithmen: The police as clairvoyant. Zeit online, August 19, 2011, accessed February 19, 2014 .
  14. a b Criminal network eavesdrop on thousands of celebrities. Spiegel online, September 21, 2006
  15. a b Patrick Radden Keefe: Italy's Watergate. , July 27, 2006
  16. John Leyden: Preatoni breaks silence over Telecom Italia spying probe. The Register, April 14, 2008