March 9, 2011

Satallite Surveillance

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 11:17 am

     By: Cory Cantor

     The initial satellite, Sputnik, was merely used to just orbit around the earth and send back radio signals. Satellite technology has greatly progressed since Sputnik’s launch. Today satellites are used for radio, television, GPS and other forms of communication. However, within our culture there is a common belief that satellites have made it easier for citizens to spy on one another, or for the government to spy on people.

     The utilization of satellites has enhanced communications through cell phones, pagers, computers and GPS systems. These devices now allow many businesses to track and monitor communication between people. Whereas, prior to the usage of satellite communication, the only way to track what stores people shopped or who they called was by personally asking people. Today, credit card companies can monitor what stores you shop and mobile phone companies can monitor who you call. Some people feel that this is an invasion of their privacy and a form of spying on their personal lifestyle, especially when some of the information is sold to other businesses for research or marketing purposes without that persons consent.  .

     Contrary to what some skeptics may say, there is technology already available to allow the common citizen access to imaging satellites. These image satellites can be used as a tool for spying. One such provider, Geo-Eye, has created such a satellite that allows greater resolution than previous models. According to James D. Zirin, “GeoEye1 will be the world’s highest resolution and most accurate commercial imaging satellite with a ground resolution of about 16 inches.” This means that one can literally be in California but yet monitor what someone else is reading in New York City.  

      Government surveillance is also another concern of many people across the globe. Majority of this type of surveillance is conducted without consent or knowledge of people, basically for government security or war tactics. John Fleming believes that “During the Vietnam War sky high infra-red sensors were tested which detect individual enemy soldiers walking around on the ground.” Using this reference, we can establish 1970 as the approximate date of the beginning of satellite surveillance–and the end of the possibility of privacy for several people.”  Since then, the government now can use GPS to track stolen cars, cameras on street corners to monitor criminal activity or traffic violations and even monitor people under house arrest via GPS.

     The government may also soon have the ability to track someone by just knowing how he or she walks.  In David Derbyshire’s article in the Daily Mail, he describes that “They would use a computer program that searches for the movement of shadows on the ground, and then identifies their owners from the way they walk.” Derbyshire also explains that this process would work because everyone has a unique stride and that it is almost impossible to hide. This is a great enhancement of surveillance, since in the past when a criminal was wanted the government relied on face to face communication with people as to where the criminal was located or have manned police cars on street corners to monitor activity.

    Overall satellites are useful tools for everyone. They have greatly enhanced society over the centuries from corresponding through pictures or symbols, to now allowing people the ability to instantly converse across the globe and into space. We need to be keenly aware that any form of communication can possibly be overheard or even intercepted by others, regardless if it is done in public or the privacy of our own homes.


  1. -Matt Wyborski
    This topic is probably absolute gold for the conspiracy theorists in the world. The idea of the Geo-Eye satellite being able to actively track anyone with civilian access is laughable, yet people still worry about it. Just because it can take still photos of what someone was doing at one point in time does not mean that a civilian can get on it, then control it to take active video of what and individual is doing. However the paranoia for some people sets in and they just can’t let go of this remote possibility. But I totally agree with you, satellites are extremely useful in our society for GPS and communications of all sorts. And if they want to use the satellite to track someone who is on house arrest, more power to them. If someone has earned them self the right to be on house arrest, I personally don’t mind the government actively trying to keep them in their house. I agree that we should be utilizing these satellites, not trying to let paranoid people limit them.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 11:41 am | Reply

  2. I agree that satellites are the reason we are able to do what we do today, and they have evolved a lot from Sputnik. Since this technology has been introduced to businesses, I believe it has many positive qualities. The company knows your habits and can tailor their services specifically for you, and if your phone or credit card is ever lost or stolen, satellites and tracking technology makes them easier to find and retrieve. One thing I don’t agree with is that the everyday person should have access to programs that provide highly detailed satellite photographs. Those types of programs should be reserved for government use only. A good use would be for the military to hunt down insurgents in the Middle East, or the United States government spying on domestic terrorists. Overall, I do agree that satellites are very powerful tools and people should be able to use them to an extent, and they are a big part of out lives, and the reason we can use the technology we have today.
    -Benjamin Swanson

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 10, 2011 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  3. Satellites are a necessity for today’s world. GPS, cell phones, most communication is done by satellite. I think these have more pros than they have cons. The only people that should care about the government knowing where they are should be people doing illegal things. We gain security because we sacrifice our privacy. I honestly don’t mind that my cell phone company knows where I am. If my phone got lost, the company would know where it was and I could get it back. Satellites are used to find cars. I would love to know where my car was if it got stolen. Credit card tracking doesn’t bother me much either. I feel that the world is a safer place since these security measures have been put in place. These are mainly used to track criminals so it really only makes me feel safer.
    -Dylan Schnormeier

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

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