Surveillance is the monitoring of the behaviour, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them. This can include observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment (such as CCTV cameras) or interception of electronically transmitted information (such as Internet traffic or phone calls); and it can include simple, relatively no- or low-technology methods such as human intelligence agents and postal interception.
Surveillance is used by governments for intelligence gathering, the prevention of crime, the protection of a process, person, group or object, or for the investigation of crime. It is also used by criminal organizations to plan and commit crimes such as robbery and kidnapping, by businesses to gather intelligence, and by private investigators.
Surveillance is often a violation of privacy, and is opposed by various civil liberties groups and activists. Liberal democracies have laws which restrict domestic government and private use of surveillance, usually limiting it to circumstances where public safety is at risk. Authoritarian government seldom have any domestic restrictions; and international espionage is common among all types of countries.
Surveillance cameras are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or IP network, and may be watched by a security guard or law enforcement officer. Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage, but analysis of footage has been made easier by automated software that organizes digital video footage into a searchable database, and by video analysis software. The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which only record when motion is detected. With cheaper production techniques, surveillance cameras are simple and inexpensive enough to be used in home security systems, and for everyday surveillance.