New technologies which were originally conceived for the defense and intelligence sectors, have, after the Cold War, rapidly spread into the law enforcement and private sectors. It is one of the areas of technological advance where outdated regulations have not kept pace with an accelerating pattern of abuses.
An report to the European Parliament by the British human rights organization Omega Foundation () gives an good overview of the current status of and an outlook on surveillance in Europe. It both addresses incidents in European countries and gives an description of the American Echelon system, which I address in section 4.4.
According to that report, in the last few years many governments have spent huge sums on the development of new technologies for surveillance systems for their police and security forces.
While the adoption of these technologies may have legitimate law enforcement functions and may be relatively harmless when accompanied by strong regulation mechanisms, "without such democratic controls they provide powerful tools of oppression", the report states.
This "parallels a political shift in targeting", the report adds. Instead of investigating crime, law enforcement agencies are now increasingly "tracking certain social classes and races of people living in the red-lined areas before any crime is committed".