Mass surveillance industry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The mass surveillance industry is a multibillion-dollar industry that has undergone phenomenal growth since 2001. According to data provided by The Wall Street Journal, the retail market for surveillance tools has grown from "nearly zero" in 2001 to about US$5 billion in 2011.[1] The size of the video surveillance market rose to US$13.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach US$39 billion by 2020.[2][needs update]

Current developments[edit]

Fueled by widespread fears of terrorist attacks, the future of surveillance is particularly promising in the field of video content analysis, where computers analyze live camera feeds to count the number of people, register temperature changes, and automatically identify suspicious behavior via statistical algorithms.[2] The following terrorist attacks have led to a significant increase in street-level surveillance:

Private intelligence agencies[edit]

Private intelligence agencies are non-governmental corporations involved in the collection and analysis of information. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, such tasks were mostly performed by governmental agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the gathering of intelligence was rapidly outsourced by the U.S. government to private intelligence agencies, which function as independent contractors.[4]

According to The Washington Post, about one in four U.S. intelligence workers are contractors, and over 70 percent of the budget of the United States Intelligence Community is earmarked for payment to private firms.[4] An examination by The Post found that 1,931 private companies work on programs related to intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.[5]

The average annual cost of a contract employee is US $250,000, almost twice that of a federal employee.[6]


Strategic Forecasting, Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, is a global intelligence company founded in 1996 in Austin, Texas. It offers information to governments and private clients including Dow Chemical Company, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Marine Corps.[7]

In 2012–13, over 5 million internal e-mails from Stratfor were released by WikiLeaks.[7]

Booz Allen Hamilton[edit]

From March to June 2013, Edward Snowden took a pay cut to work at Booz Allen Hamilton so that he could download additional top-secret documents.[8]

Booz Allen Hamilton is a publicly traded company that is majority-owned by The Carlyle Group, a global asset management firm specializing in private equity, based in Washington, D.C.[9] Founded in 1914 by Edwin G. Booz, Booz Allen Hamilton became one of the most profitable private contractors by supplying tens of thousands of intelligence analysts to the U.S. federal government.[9] During the fiscal year of 2013, Booz Allen Hamilton derived 99% of its income from the government, and the largest portion of its revenue (16%) came from the U.S. Army.[10] Half of its employees carry top secret security clearances.[11] In the first half of 2013, Booz Allen Hamilton has won numerous contracts, including:

In 2006, Booz Allen Hamilton was recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For".[14] In 2013, Booz Allen Hamilton was hailed by Bloomberg Businessweek as "the World's Most Profitable Spy Organization".[15]


Commercial mass surveillance often makes use of copyright laws and "user agreements" to obtain (typically uninformed) 'consent' to surveillance from consumers who use their software or other related materials. This allows the gathering of information that would be technically illegal if performed by government agencies. This data is then often shared with government agencies - thereby - in practice - defeating the purpose of such privacy protections.

Reporters Without Borders' March 2013 Special report on Internet Surveillance contained a list of "Corporate Enemies of the Internet", companies that sell products that are liable to be used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. The five companies on the initial list were: Amesys (France), Blue Coat Systems (U.S.), Gamma (UK and Germany), Hacking Team (Italy), and Trovicor (Germany), but the list was not exhaustive and is likely to be expanded in the future.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jennifer Valentino-Devries , Julia Angwin and Steve Stecklow. "Document Trove Exposes Surveillance Methods". The Wall Street Journal. Intelligence agencies in the U.S. and abroad have long conducted their own surveillance. But in recent years, a retail market for surveillance tools has sprung up from "nearly zero" in 2001 to about $5 billion a year, said Jerry Lucas, president of TeleStrategies Inc., the show's operator.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "The great surveillance boom". CNN. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Terry Atlas and Greg Stohr. "Surveillance Cameras Sought by Cities After Boston Bombs". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b Robert O’Harrow Jr., Dana Priest and Marjorie Censer (11 June 2013). "NSA leaks put focus on intelligence apparatus's reliance on outside contractors". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  5. ^ Robert O’Harrow Jr. (10 June 2013). "The outsourcing of U.S. intelligence raises risks among the benefits". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  6. ^ Robert O'Harrow Jr. (28 June 2007). "Costs Skyrocket As DHS Runs Up No-Bid Contracts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  7. ^ a b Pratap Chatterjee. "WikiLeaks' Stratfor dump lifts lid on intelligence-industrial complex". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Snowden sought Booz Allen job to gather evidence on NSA surveillance", Lana Lam, South China Morning Post, 25 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  9. ^ a b Thomas Heath and Marjorie Censer (15 June 2013). "NSA revelations put Booz Allen Hamilton, Carlyle Group in uncomfortable limelight". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 20 June 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  10. ^ Neil Irwin. "Seven facts about Booz Allen Hamilton". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  11. ^ Sanger, David E. and Nicole Perlroth. "After Profits, Defense Contractor Faces the Pitfalls of Cybersecurity." The New York Times. June 15, 2013. Retrieved on June 27, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d e Filipa Ioanno. "Booz Allen Keeps Winning Government Security Contracts After Snowden Leak". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Booz Allen to Lockheed Win Part of $6 Billion Cyber Award". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  14. ^ "100 Best Companies to Work For". Fortune. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  15. ^ "Booz Allen, the World's Most Profitable Spy Organization". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  16. ^ The Enemies of the Internet Special Edition : Surveillance Archived 2013-08-31 at the Wayback Machine, Reporters Without Borders, 12 March 2013