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Roger Clarke's 'Point-of-View Surveillance'

Point-of-View Surveillance

Revision of 19 March 2012

Roger Clarke **

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This document provides an overview of 'point of view surveillance' (PoVS) technologies, as a basis for considering their applications, impacts and implications. The first section provides a very brief overview of surveillance technologies as a whole.

1. Surveillance Technologies Generally

A brief review of the development of surveillance practices is provided in (Clarke 2001), and a set of vignettes is in Clarke (2007b). During a 25-year period studying many aspects of surveillance, the author has developed a Framework for the Analysis of Surveillance (Clarke 2009). It has three elements:

Exhibit 1: Techniques and Technologies of Surveillance - Overview

  1. Physical Surveillance
  2. Communications Surveillance
  3. Data Surveillance / Dataveillance
  4. Location and Tracking Surveillance
  5. Body Surveillance
  6. Omnipresent and/or Omniscient Surveillance / 'Überveillance'

Exhibit 2: Characteristics of a Surveillance Activity - Overview

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

2. Point-of-View Surveillance - Narrow Definition

The term 'point of view surveillance' is of recent origin, and is used to describe several capabilities that have seen rapidly increasing intensity of deployment in the last few years. In terms of the classifications outlined in the previous section, PoVS is inherently Aided Physical Surveillance, and specifically Visual, although quite probably Audio as well, and in some circumstances perhaps Audio-only. Particular applications also incorporate Location and Tracking surveillance technologies.

The defining feature of PoVS is that the camera is human-borne, and points away from the human, generally following the orientation of the person's head, i.e. to capture the scene in the person's line-of-sight, or point-of-view. Means of carriage include eyepieces, spectacle-frames, headbands and helmets.

These defining features differentiate PoVS from:

The term 'wearable computing' has been in use since at least 1980, when Steve Mann applied it in particular to wearable cameras and head-mounted displays (Mann 1996, 1997). More generally, see Rhodes (1997).

The usage of PoVS may be overt, or covert, or not intentionally covert but non-obvious. As a result of the miniaturisation of cameras, some worn-cameras are inherently non-obvious.

Recording and transmission may be continuous, may be instigated by the individual or by another person remotely, or may be automatically triggered, e.g. by a motion-detector or accelerometer.

3. Point-of-View Surveillance - Extended Definition

A strict definition limits PoVS to a camera closely associated with a person's head, such that it changes its direction when the person turns their head, and hence is always capturing the scene from that person's point-of-view.

However, the term PoVS is used with some looseness, to also encompass at least the following:

4. PoVS Capabilities

The basic and extended definitions provided in the previous section specify the ability to capture a still-image or a moving-image.

PoVS devices may be designed with a range of further capabilities, including:

The use of PoVS technology to replace a person's direct vision with a video-feed appears, by itself, to offer the person little or no advantage. However, it opens up a range of possibilities. In particular:

Some examples of augmented displays include:

5. . Points-of-Views Surveillance

Up to this stage in the development of the notion of PoVS, it has been described as a single feed from a single point-of-view, which may be fed locally to the person, recorded locally, transmitted and/or recorded remotely.

The scope exists, however., for multiple points-of-view to be exploited. Multiple feeds can be transmitted to the same place, or in such a manner that the feeds, or the recordings, can be acquired by multiple parties.

The range of possibilities can be readily appreciated using the (all-too-common) scenario of a major demonstration, with confrontations between law enforcement staff and demonstrators, and recriminations on both sides.

The law enforcement command and control centre might display multiple points-of-view, transmitted from policemen's kit, in parallel. This may provide a better sense of the overall situation, and enable more effective deployment of resources. In addition, the running of synchronised recordings, with synchronised slow, stop-start and rewind functionality, may enable more effective retrospective investigation of what occurred in a particular place at a particular time.

Given the recent, dramatic changes in the economics of PoVS technologies, video transmission and command-and-control centres, the demonstration-organiser might do much the same as the law enforcement agency, using transmissions from demonstrators' mobile-phones.

Applying the principles of 'crowd-sourcing', volunteers might provide feeds, intended for any and all of law enforcement agencies, the demonstration-organiser, a human rights observer organisation and/or to a publicly-available site, as suggested by the 'Transparent Society' hypothesis (Brin 1998).

To the extent that private feeds or recordings exist, the law enforcement agency, the demonstration-organiser, a human rights organisation and/or individuals concerned about the matter, might seek access to them using warrants and/or demand-powers on one side, and, on the other, requests, FOI requests and hacking.

6. Near-PoVS Technologies

A number of surveillance technologies share a variety of features with PoVS, and discussions frequently use the PoVS term even more loosely to include some or all of them. Examples include:


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

Brin D. (1998) 'The Transparent Society' Addison-Wesley, 1998

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. (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. (2005a) 'Human-Artefact Hybridisation: Forms and Consequences', Proc. Ars Electronica 2005 Symposium on Hybrid - Living in Paradox, Linz, Austria, 2-3 September 2005, version of May 2005, 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. (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. (2011) 'Cyborg Rights' IEEE Technology and Society 30, 3 (Fall 2011) 49-57, PrePrint at R. & Wigan M. (2012) 'You Are Where You've Been: The Privacy Implications of Location and Tracking Technologies' Forthcoming, J. of Location Based Services 5, 3 (2012), PrePrint at

Hayes A. (2012) 'Location Enabled Body Worn Technologies in the Education Sector' Proc. Conf. Point of View Technologies in the Law Enforcement Sector, Sydney, February 2012

Mann S. (1994) 'Wearable,Tetherless, Computer-Mediated Reality (with possible future applications to the disabled)' Technical Reporti #260, M.I.T. Medial Lab Perceptual Computing Section, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1994, at

Mann S. (1996) 'Smart Clothing: The Shift to Wearable Computing' Communications of the ACM 39, 8 (August 1996) 23-24, at

Mann S. (1997) 'An historical account of the 'WearComp' and 'WearCam' inventions developed for applications in 'Personal Imaging'' Proc. ISWC, 13-14 October 1997, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 66-73, at

Mann S. (2009) 'Sousveillance: Wearable Computing and Citizen 'Undersight' - Watching from Below Rather Than Above' h+ Magazine, 10 July 2009, at

Mann S. & Niedzviecki H. (2001) 'Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer' Random House, 2001

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 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

Rhodes B. (1997) 'A brief history of wearable computing' MIT Wearable Computing Project, apparently of 1997, at

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: 3 November 2011 - Last Amended: 19 March 2012 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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