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Roger Clarke's 'Framework for Surveillance Analysis'

A Framework for Surveillance Analysis

Version of 16 February 2012

Roger Clarke **

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2009-12

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Surveillance was for centuries limited to human observation. Gradually, aids became available to assist in the activity. The scope of surveillance expanded during the second half of the nineteenth century, with electronic surveillance following very quickly on the heels of the deployment of the telegraph and the telephone. In the second half of the twentieth century, a new opportunity was exploited, to conduct data surveillance and monitor people through the data-trails that their behaviour left behind them. Around the turn of the twenty-first century, it became much easier to monitor a person's location, and to track them. In parallel, technologies were refined to enable the direct surveillance of the individual's body. The economics of surveillance technologies is now such that omnipresence and omniscience are becoming realisable dreams, for some, and nightmares, for others.

Surveillance activities vary enormously in their characteristics. In order to being some coherence to the analysis of surveillance activities, it is important that a framework be established and a consistent terminology developed. This document contributes to the emergence of such a framework, by providing definitions of fundamental terms, and structured lists of the forms of surveillance and the dimensions of a surveillance activity.


1. Introduction

This section provides definitions of key terms. The following sections provide structured lists firstly of the forms of surveillance and their supporting technologies, and secondly of the dimensions of a surveillance activity. The purpose is to provide a basis for analysing surveillance's impacts, particularly on the various dimensions of privacy.

Exhibit 1: Definitions


The systematic investigation or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more persons

Personal Surveillance

The surveillance of an identified person

In general, a specific reason exists for the investigation or monitoring. It may also, however, be applied as a means of deterrence against particular actions by the person, or represssion of the person's behaviour.

Mass Surveillance

The surveillance of groups of people, usually large groups

In general, the reason for investigation or monitoring is to identify individuals who belong to some particular class of interest to the surveillance organization. It may also, however, be used for its deterrent effects.

Überveillance [type 1, cf. Body-Surveillance]

Surveillance of a feature of a person, or of an artefact that is very closely associated with a person included embedded within the person's body

Überveillance [type 2, cf. Omni-Surveillance]

Surveillance that applies across all space and all time (omni-present), and supports some organisation that is all-seeing and even all-knowing (omniscient), at least relative to some person or object


The use of Surveillance as a countermeasure.

Surveillance is normally used when the activity is undertaken by or on behalf of a powerful organisation, or less commonly a powerful individual ('sur' = 'above').

Sousveillance is used where the activity is undertaken by or on behalf of the less powerful, commonly an individual or a group, and the purpose is as a countermeasure against behaviours of powerful organisations or individuals ('sous' = 'beneath').

The term was coined c. 1995 by Steven Mann (e.g. Mann et al. 2003).

2. Forms of Surveillance

The section provides structured lists of the forms of surveillance and supporting technologies. All forms of surveillance interfere with behavioural privacy, and particular forms interfere with communications privacy, data privacy, and privacy of the physical person.

Exhibit 2A: Forms of Surveillance - Overview

Exhibit 2B: Forms of Surveillance - Detail





This involves the observation and possibly also recording of a target's location relative to some physical space, or some virtual space (such as an Internet IP-address).

Longstanding forms of this category of surveillance include the use of human sight and hearing in order to perform a pursuit, and location stake-out (e.g. of the target's own home or workplace; sites of relations, friends, associates; or social locations); and the use of human informants, both in a casual manner, and in a more organised manner such as, in contemporary terms, 'crowd-sourcing'.

More sophisticated forms include the Detection and/or Recording:

Facilitative Mechanisms, include location-data retention and re-purposing, e.g. ANPR data ostensibly for traffic offences but actually or also for mass surveillance

BODY SURVEILLANCE ['Überveillance' type 1]

Detection and/or Recording of data from a person:


3. Dimensions of a Surveillance Activity

The public and political acceptability, the legality, and the effectiveness of a particular instance of surveillance differ greatly depending on the design choices that it evidences. An approach to developing an ethical framework for surveillance is in Michael, McNamee & Michael (2006).

Exhibit 3A: Dimensions of a Surveillance Activity - Overview

  1. Of What?
  2. For Whom?
  3. By Whom?
  4. Why?
  5. How?
  6. Where?
  7. When?

Exhibit 3B: Dimensions of a Surveillance Activity - Detail

(1) Of What?

That which is subjected to surveillance may be:

(2) For Whom?

The beneficiaries of surveillance may be:

Relevant categories of organisations include associations of persons, corporations, associations of corporations, and government agencies, which can be usefull further categorised into administrative, law enforcement and national security agencies.

(3) By Whom?

The surveillance may be conducted by:

(4) Why?

Two broad categories of purposes can be distinguished:

The motivation for the surveillance may be:

(5) How?

Using one or more of the forms defined in Exhibit 2A.

(6) Where?

The locus of the surveillance may be defined:

(7) When?

The timeframe in which surveillance is conducted may be:

The intensity with which surveillance is conducted may be:

The persistence of consequences of surveillance may be:

The time-period within which surveillance is applied may be:


Note: References in bold are confirmed as being relevant to this document. The remainder are to be evaluated and many will be deleted.

APF (2009) 'Policy Statement re Visual Surveillance, incl. CCTV' Australian Privacy Foundation, October 2009, at

Clarke R. (1988) 'Information Technology and Dataveillance' Commun. ACM 31,5 (May 1988) 498-512, and re-published in C. Dunlop and R. Kling (Eds.), 'Controversies in Computing', Academic Press, 1991, at

Clarke R. (1994) 'Human Identification in Information Systems: Management Challenges and Public Policy Issues' Information Technology & People 7,4 (December 1994) 6-37, at

Clarke R. (1999a) 'Identified, Anonymous and Pseudonymous Transactions: The Spectrum of Choice' Proc. User Identification & Privacy Protection Conf., Stockholm, 14-15 June 1999, at

Clarke R. (1999b) 'Person-Location and Person-Tracking: Technologies, Risks and Policy Implications' Proc. 21st International Conference on Privacy and Personal Data Protection, pp.131-150, Hong Kong, September 1999. Revised version in Information Technology & People 14, 2 (Summer 2001) 206-231, at

Clarke R. (2001) 'While You Were Sleeping ... Surveillance Technologies Arrived' Australian Quarterly 73, 1 (January-February 2001), at

Clarke R. (2006) 'What's 'Privacy'? Working Paper, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, July 2006, at

Clarke R. (2007a) 'What 'Überveillance' Is, and What To Do About It' Invited Keynote, 2nd RNSA Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security - From Dataveillance to Überveillance ..., 29 October 2007, University of Wollongong. Revised version published as 'What is Überveillance? (And What Should Be Done About It?)' IEEE Technology and Society 29, 2 (Summer 2010) 17-25, at

Clarke R. (2007b) 'Surveillance Vignettes' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, September 2007, at

Clarke R. (2008) 'Dissidentity: The Political Dimension of Identity and Privacy' Identity in the Information Society 1 (2008) 221-228, at

Clarke R. (2009) 'The Covert Implementation of Mass Vehicle Surveillance in Australia' Proc. 4th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security: Covert Policing, 7 April 2009, ANU, Canberra, at

Clarke R. & Stevens K. (1997) 'Evaluation Or Justification? The Application Of Cost/Benefit Analysis To Computer Matching Schemes' Euro. Conf. in Infor. Syst., Cork, Ireland, 19-21 June 1997, at

Clarke R. & Wigan M. (2011) 'You Are Where You've Been: The Privacy Implications of Location and Tracking Technologies' Journal of Location Based Services 5, 3-4 (December 2011) 138-155, PrePrint at

Mann S., Nolan J. & Wellman B. (2003) 'Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments' Surveillance & Society 1, 3 (June 2003) 331-355, at

Michael K., McNamee A. & Michael M.G. (2006) 'The emerging ethics of humancentric GPS tracking and monitoring' Proc. Int'l Conf. on Mobile Business, 25th-27th July 2006, Copenhagen, Denmark, pp. 34-44

Michael K., McNamee A., Michael M.G. & Tootell H. (2006) 'Location-based intelligence - modelling behaviour in humans using GPS' Proc. Int'l Symposium on Technology and Society, 8th-11th June 2006, New York City, pp. 1-8

Michael M.G. & Michael K. (2006) 'National Security: The Social Implications of the Politics of Transparency' Prometheus 24, 4 (December 2006) 359-363, at

Michael M.G. & Michael K. (2007) 'Überveillance: 24/7 x 365 People Tracking and Monitoring' Proc. 29th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner, at

Michael K. & Michael M.G. (2008) 'Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants' IGI Press, Forthcoming, 350pp.

Perusco L. & Michael K. (2006) 'Control, trust, privacy and security: evaluating location-based services' IEEE Technology & Society Magazine 26, 1 (Spring 2007) 4-16

Perusco L., Michael K. & Michael M.G. (2006) 'Location-based services and the privacy-security dichotomy' Proc. 3rd Int'l Conf. on Mobile Computing and Ubiquitous Networking, 11-13th October 2006, London, England, pp. 91-98

Wigan M. & Clarke R. (2006) 'Social Impacts of Transport Surveillance' Proc. RNSA Workshop on Social Implications of Information Security Measures upon Citizens and Business, Uni. of Wollongong, 29 May 2006, in Michael K. & Michael M.G. (Eds.) 'The Social Implications of Information Security Measures on Citizens and Business' Research Network Secure Australia, 2006, Chapter 2, pp. 27-44. Revised version published as Wigan M. & Clarke R. 'Social Impacts of Transport Surveillance' Prometheus 24, 4 (December 2006) 389-403, at

Wigan M. & Clarke R. (2009) 'Transport and Surveillance Aspects of Location-Based Services' Transportation Research Record 2105 (September 2009) 92-99

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 15 August 2009 - Last Amended: 16 February 2012 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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