Surveillance industry – overview

When cops decide to spy on us using surveillance devices, they need to get the devices from somewhere. It seems that they often buy these devices from private companies. The companies that manufacture and market surveillance-related products and services to law enforcement agencies, governments, and armed forces, form what we call the surveillance industry.

Although on this website we limit ourselves to the study of hidden physical surveillance devices, the surveillance industry develops all kind of repression tools to be used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide. Internet monitoring, interception of cellular communications, counter-surveillance equipment and biometrics technologies are only a few examples.

The companies participating in this industry aren’t spread evenly on the world map. In their 2016 report about the global surveillance industry, Privacy International commented on the geographical breakdown of the 528 surveillance companies taken into account in the report :

These companies are overwhelmingly based in economically advanced, large arms exporting states, with the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany, and Israel comprising the top five countries in which the companies are headquartered.

Despite this, many of these companies export their products, so that surveillance devices manufactured in one country can sometimes be sold everywhere in the world.

Due to the nature of the industry, these companies often work in relative secrecy and it is sometimes hard to obtain reliable information about their activities, their clients, and their products. Documents leaked by whistleblowers, such as the Spy Files, a large collection of documents about the surveillance industry published from 2011 to 2014 by Wikileaks, are a precious source of information.

We think that understanding how the surveillance industry works, who sells the surveillance devices to the cops and what the devices look like will help us to oppose this surveillance. On this website, you will find a list of companies that sell physical surveillance devices to law enforcement agencies, a list of the trade shows and other events of the industry, a glossary of the specific terms of the surveillance industry, and a list of other resources on the subject.