Surveillance technology is rapidly evolving, and sales of surveillance systems are booming. Let us first get familiarized with some commonly used and emerging examples of surveillance technology.

Airborne wide-area surveillance: A manned, small aircraft equipped with an array of cameras that can monitor a small city-sized area in real-time and record images of the movements of vehicles and people.

Automated license plate readers: High-speed cameras capable of capturing photos of every passing license plate used in conjunction with software that analyzes those photographs to identify plates and compare them to lists of wanted suspects or stolen vehicles. The cameras may be mounted on police squad cars, bridges, overpasses or utility poles.

Body cameras: Thought of more as a tool for police oversight than citizen surveillance, these pager-sized wearable cameras can record high-definition video for up to 12 hours.

Closed network video surveillance: A system of cameras spread across a city that actively monitors certain areas and records video for future viewing. Cameras can pan, tilt and zoom in to identify a person’s face or license plate. Cameras can see and record in daylight or at night. The latest iterations produce in ultra-high-definition 4K video typically reserved for digital cinematography. Some systems include intelligent analytics to identify suspicious behavior, such as leaving a parked car or package near a critical piece of infrastructure, and alert those monitoring the cameras.

Drones: Unmanned drones with cameras can vary in size, from large fixed-wing commercial-size planes to aircraft as small as birds. Cameras affixed to drones can have high-powered zoom capabilities and night vision similar to those in closed-network systems. Drones can be used to actively monitor and record video.

Facial recognition: Computer software can scan a person’s face, measuring the size and distance between key facial features, and automatically match it against a database of mug shots or other known faces for identification. It’s still rarely used in municipal police departments, but some cities such as Seattle have incorporated it into its network of video surveillance cameras.

GPS tracking: A global positioning system (GPS) tracking device can be attached to a suspect’s vehicle and programmed to transmit a signal via cell tower, allowing police to determine the location of a vehicle and what direction it is headed.

Gunshot detectors: A network of sensors placed around the city can detect gunfire, record the audio, map the location and send an alert to patrol officers in less than half a minute.

StingRay: This device, also known as a cell-site simulator, can mimic a wireless cell tower and trick nearby phones into connecting to it. This allows investigators to locate, track or intercept data from a cell phone.

Squad-car cameras: Digital cameras mounted to squad cars can be activated manually by officers or be programmed to turn on automatically the moment a patrol car’s sirens are activated or when the vehicle reaches a predetermined speed. Like body cameras, these are often used as a tool for oversight into police interactions with the public during traffic stops.

Traffic cameras: Traffic enforcement cameras are triggered to automatically photograph vehicles that break certain rules of the road. Red-light cameras capture pictures of vehicles that enter an intersection despite a red light. Speed cameras photograph vehicles that exceed a posted speed limit. Law enforcement typically reviews the photograph and mails the driver a citation.

Surveillance technology continues to advance at a pace that continues to outstrip legislation, policy and regulation formation, with only a handful of States (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont) governing the use and retention of surveillance data collected by license plate readers, as an example. PRISM, an anti-terrorist, mass electronic surveillance data mining program sponsored by the NSA, collects petabytes of internet and social intelligence data on a daily basis worldwide. Many new national and international laws are being proposed in an attempt to govern PRISM-collected (and others..) data. Many additional areas of discipline, ie. Ethics of Surveillance, Governance of Surveillance, Participatory Surveillance, Regulating Surveillance, Smart Surveillance, Surveillance and Big Data, Surveillance and Mobility continue to evolve at a pace not in synch with data collection rates.

The retention and chain-of-custody of surveillance data collected by surveillance systems has become a major concern of both privacy advocates and law enforcement. Both legal compliance and privacy advocates have escalated both the short and long-term storage requirements of surveillance data. Bottom line, the management and storage of zetabytes of surveillance data remains of paramount importance to us all. CUC can help.