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Electronic Surveillance

We now live in a world where we are all becoming much more aware of the fact that we are being monitored. It started with the Police using CCTV to monitor town centres and other high crime risk areas. This was done to enable the police to attend possible trouble spots quickly and, according to Home Office statistics, it was a great success. Crime rates in areas where there are CCTV surveillance cameras in operation have fallen dramatically. These cameras help the police not only to attend incidents quickly but also to see problems developing and to attend before an incident becomes too serious.

In many ways the world is a much more dangerous place than ever before. There is a huge risk of terrorist attack and it would simply not be able to monitor the dangers without using, not only covert agents but also electronic surveillance systems. We know that the public are not happy about government agencies carrying out telephone monitoring and e-mail monitoring, but there must always be a price to pay if they are to keep the public safe from terrorist attacks.

Thankfully the electronic surveillance equipment now available is more sophisticated than ever and this means that GCHQ and other governmental security agencies have the ability to monitor virtually every phone call and e-mail with the minimum of personnel. The public must be aware that there are not banks of people sitting in rows listening to everyone’s conversations. It is more a case of equipment being programmed to pick up key phrases that would alert the agency that a conversation may have taken place that warrants further investigation.

Of course all electronic surveillance facilities can, like so many other products, be abused. The current investigation in to computer hacking has pulled in a number of private detective agencies and some of the UK’s leading firms, including many leading legal firms, accountancy firms and FTSE 100 companies.

Electronic surveillance equipment has come down in price and therefore become more accessible to the public. This means that key logging equipment is now often purchased by parents who want to monitor what their children are doing on their computers. Companies who want to control how staff are using company computers and householders who are fearful of burglaries and want to make sure that they can help the police capture the culprits.

It is clear that, in the main, electronic surveillance is used in a defensive way both to protect the citizens of this, and many other countries, to help protect companies and to safeguard private property. There will always be people who object to any form of intrusion, but the well-being of the majority must always be uppermost in everyone’s mind.

Jane Bond