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SXSW Interactive 2013

The Cost of Surveillance

Today, law enforcement are actively outsourcing surveillance to mobile operators independent of traditional legal or economic barriers to surveillance Last year, U.S law enforcement submitted over 1.3 million requests to mobile operators for access to user data. To law enforcement, mobile devices digital windows into communications history, relationships, and most important, location history.

Historically, the cost of tracking citizens faced two possible barriers. The first is legal requirements including court orders, warrants, and subpoenas. The second has been the cost in terms of officers and time. This discussion will breakdown the costs how this cost of surveillance differs from other tactics such as old-fashioned boots on the ground to autonomous drones and what it means for your privacy.

Quite simply, what is the cost per hour of surveillance and how has that value changed over time.

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  1. What are the ways in which you can be surveilled in day to day life
  2. What is the current state of policy with regards to surveillance and law enforcement?
  3. How have the historical costs of policy surveillance changed over time?
  4. How is the relationship between law enforcement and mobile operators sidestep traditional legal and economic barriers to tracking citizens?
  5. What does this mean for your privacy and rights?


  • Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Consultant, None


Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Consultant, None

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