The monitoring of behavior, activities, or other changing information to influence, manage, directing, or protecting people is known as surveillance. It can include observation from a distance utilizing electronic equipment (CCTV) cameras. Generally used for digging up information, prevention of crime, the protection of a process, person, group or object, or the investigation of crime. It is also used by criminal organizations to plan and commit crimes, such as robbery and kidnapping.

As such, surveillance viewed as a violation of privacy, and often opposed by various civil liberties groups and activists. Liberal democracies have laws which restrict domestic government the use of surveillance limiting it to the circumstance where public safety is at risk.

Surveillance is the collective term for ethically obtained proper monitoring of a subject or group. A critic, Michel Foucault, believe that in addition to its distinct function of identifying and capturing individuals who are committing undesirable acts, surveillance also functions to create in everyone a feeling of self-consciousness and always being watched so that they become self-policing. It allows the State to control the populace without having to resort to physical force, which is expensive and otherwise problematic.

There is a thin line between surveillance and spying; it is the standard term for unethically obtained proper monitoring of a subject or subjects. Spying can also describe the illegal tracking of a subject or subjects. Surveillance indicates legitimacy, whereas spying is allegedly unlawful when it’s done.

Privacy today faces growing threats from a growing surveillance apparatus that is often justified in the name of national security. Numerous government agencies—including the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and State and local law enforcement agencies intrude upon the private communications of innocent citizens, based on the vaguest standards.

The government’s collection of this sensitive information is itself an invasion of privacy. But its use of this data is also rife with abuse. Once information is in the government’s hands, it can be shared widely and retained for years, and the rules about access and use can be changed entirely in secret without the public ever knowing. Our Constitution and democratic system demand that the government is transparent and accountable to the people, not the other way around so that the public can feel safe and trust the government.

Author: Rishika Chhabra