After the Cold War ended, many people thought that the new epoch would also change the role of intelligence agencies and the need for espionage. This role has indeed changed, but in a different way than expected. The agencies are better funded than ever, and their focus had changed.
Many cases are known in which intelligence agencies and similar institutions have tried to keep parts of a population under surveillance. The purpose of some agencies is to get to know more about the whole population of its own country (as the Stasi did in Eastern Germany, for example), other agencies kept only suspicious people under surveillance (the American FBI may be an example for that).
Now that technology has improved significantly, it is possible to build bigger systems that are capable to keep an arbitrary number of people under surveillance. Echelon is the name of such a system, and I will try to provide a good overview how this system works.
The traditional duties of intelligence agencies like surveillance are still important, but the agencies had to redefine the reason for their own existence in a changed world.
Nowadays, economic and political security are closely related. Thus, to stabilize the political situation, it is important to improve the economic situation. As a result, economic espionage became part of the daily work of many agencies.
Because the area of surveillance and espionage is much bigger than anything I could cover within this paper, I decided to focus on two aspects: global surveillance and economic espionage. Although they are different, they are closely related. Surveillance is an important means to gain information used directly or indirectly for economic espionage.
Without computer scientists, it is not possible to build the systems needed, and the technologies used are at the cutting edge of research. This raises many issues in the area of ethics. I am aware of them, but it is not possible to cover these in this paper.
At first, I have to address several issues about the accuracy of the information given in this paper. Section two gives some background information for a better understanding of the main part of the paper. Section three explains methods and requirements for surveillance and espionage with focus on computer technologies. Section four covers issues about surveillance. In section five, I will write about economic espionage, and section six concludes my paper.