London, August 25 : Governments around the world have started to developing increasingly sophisticated electronic surveillance methods in a bid to identify terrorist cells or spot criminal activity in the public domain.
For example, the government of UK has announced plans to give law-enforcement agencies, local councils and other public bodies access to the details of people's text messages, emails and Internet activity, thus making surveillance easier.
According to a report in New Scientist, the announcement was made by UK's Home Office, a move made after an earlier declaration that it was considering creating a massive central database to store all public data, as a tool to help the security services tackle crime and terrorism.
"This data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time," according to a statement by the Home Office.
Meanwhile in the US, the FISA Amendments Act, which became law in July, allows the security services to intercept anyone's international phone calls and emails without a warrant for up to seven days. ]
Now, German electronics company Siemens has gone a step further, developing a complete "surveillance in a box" system called the Intelligence Platform, designed for security services in Europe and Asia.
It has already sold the system to 60 countries.
The system integrates tasks typically done by separate surveillance teams or machines, pooling data from sources such as telephone calls, email and Internet activity, bank transactions and insurance records.
It then sorts through this mountain of information using software that Siemens dubs "intelligence modules".
This software is trained on a large number of sample documents to pick out items such as names, phone numbers and places from generic text.
This means it can spot names or numbers that crop up alongside anyone already of interest to the authorities, and then catalogue any documents that contain such associates.
Once a person is being monitored, pattern-recognition software first identifies their typical behavior, such as repeated calls to certain numbers over a period of a few months.
The software can then identify any deviations from the norm and flag up unusual activities, such as transactions with a foreign bank, or contact with someone who is also under surveillance, so that analysts can take a closer look.
Included within the package is a phone call "monitoring centre", developed by the joint-venture company Nokia Siemens Networks.