Centre for Internet & Society

The following post briefly looks at different surveillance technologies, and the growing use of the them in India.


New security technologies are constantly emerging that push the edge between privacy and a reasonable level of security. Society's tolerance level is constantly being tested by governments who use surveillance and monitoring technologies to protect the nation. Governments claim that they need absolute access to citizens life. They need to monitor phones, look through emails, peer into files – in-order to maintain security and protect against terrorism. Though as a side note, in an Economic Times article published on Nov. 4 2010 it was reported that government computers were being hacked into through viruses, and top secret documents were being stolen. The irony of the story is that the viruses were introduced to the computers through porn websites visited by officials.

...In a Car? On the Street? In an Airport?

Despite the fact that governmental monitoring might make the common man uncomfortable, the reality is that governments will always win the national security vs privacy fight. The story becomes more complicated when it moves from the government directly monitoring individuals, to security agencies monitoring individuals. For instance the use of full body scanners at airports, or trucks equipped with scatter x-ray machines used to control crime in neighborhoods - is a much more heated debate. There are other ways in which to check passengers for banned items, and other ways to keep crime off the streets without mandating that individuals submit themselves to invasive scans, or scanning unaware individuals.

...In the Movie Theater????..for Marketing Purposes????

Surveillance technology has now been taken even another step further. No longer is it being just used to prevent violent crimes or terrorist attacks. Today the movie industry is using controversial anti-piracy tools to protect the films they produce. For instance the security company Aralia Systems manufacturers products such as: CCTV cameras and anti-camcorder systems that shine infrared light beams on audiences as they watch a movie. The light beams reflect off camcorders and alerts the theater that there are camcorders present. Though this practice can be seen as invasive - individuals might be opposed to being probed by light beams throughout movies, the extent of potential privacy invasion does not stop there. Aralia Systems has partnered with Machine Vision Lab and has created a system that harvests audiences emotions and movements as they watch movies. The data can then be used by market researchers to better tailor their behavioral advertising schemes. Essentially movie theater monitoring has merged surveillance technologies with behavioral marketing technologies in a twisted invasion of movie watchers personal privacy.

Is this technology in India?

Though behavioral monitoring and piracy technologies such as ones produced by Aralia Systems are not yet used in Indian movie theaters – security measures against piracy are used. Movie theaters across India are equipped with metal detectors at the door, and security personel check your handbag or back pack for camcorders. According to a Indian Express article, the organization Allegiance Against Copyright Theft believes one of the reasons monitoring technology is not yet used in theaters is because there is no present Indian legislation that penalizes recording in halls. Once legislation is passed, they speculate there will be a push to use these technologies. Even though monitoring technology is not yet used in theaters, monitoring of consumers behavior is increasing. Recently in India the WPP owned research agency IMRB International has developed an online audience measurement system that uses tailored metering technology to track the sites that users visit. The Web Audience Measurement System has launched this technology in a sample size of 21,000 Indian households, covering 90,000 individuals. IMRB has said that the meters are capable of capturing usage data from multiple computers, and that they can then use the information to market to the individual. Does it seem ironic to anyone that companies now charge for a service – movie tickets, internet services, telephone services – and make an extra profit by data mining at the expense of a persons privacy?


  • http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/Govt-depts-asked-not-to-store-sensitive-info-on-Net-connected-computers/articleshow/6874631.cms
  • http://www.research-live.com/news/technology/imrb-unveils-web-measurement-service-for-indian-market/4003941.article
  • http://blogs.computerworld.com/17276/anti_piracy_tool_will_harvest_market_your_emotions?source=rss_blogs
  •  http://www.indianexpress.com/news/antipiracy-unit-joins-hands-with-cinema-halls-to-curb-camcording/695439/2


The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of their individual authors. Unless the opposite is explicitly stated, or unless the opposite may be reasonably inferred, CIS does not subscribe to these views and opinions which belong to their individual authors. CIS does not accept any responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the views and opinions of these individual authors. For an official statement from CIS on a particular issue, please contact us directly.