Under-Explored Threats to Privacy: See-Through-Wall Technologies

Through-wall surveillance (TWS): Even more intriguing is the invention of equipment to see through walls, such as infra-red cameras, thermal imaging, and through-the-wall surveillance technologies that can detect activities behind walls and in darkness (my note – infrared and thermal imaging can’t see through walls), thereby providing information on the location and movement of people inside buildings and homes (Bush 2006; Hunt, Tillery and Wild 2001; Miles 2007). Through-the-wall radar devices, which are lightweight, portable and able to focus up to twenty or thirty meters ahead, are increasingly available to municipalities and law enforcement agencies (Jones 2005).

RadarVision, built by Time Domain Corp. of Huntsville, Alabama, and Prism 100 made by Cambridge Consultants Ltd. in Cambridge, England can detect the presence of inanimate objects through the wall, but only moving objects (in the form of a moving blob of color on their built-in color screens) are shown to the user. The product – for use by emergency and security services – weighs about six pounds including a lithium-ion battery pack. Since both these devices can be used from outside a residence or an office, such as from a neighboring home or building, they pose a challenge for targeted persons to know and prove that they are being monitored (Jones 2005). Researchers at Atlanta’s Georgia Technical Research Institute have made a flashlight that can see through doors and walls, thereby detecting a stationary person’s presence through solid wood or an eight-inch block wall from four feet away (Sanders 2001). The flashlight uses simple microwave technology. It emits an invisible beam of electromagnetic radiation similar to automatic door sensors that sense movement. A commercial version is no larger than a police flashlight and costs less than $500 (Scott 1997). Little is known about the government’s hushed Celldar project that originated in Britain in 2002. The Celldar uses radar technology to allow surveillance of anyone, at any time, and any place where there is a phone signal. It uses mobile phone masts to allow authorities to watch vehicles and individuals almost anywhere. A report published in Britain’s newspaper The Guardian mentions that this equipment has ‘X- ray vision’ potential – the capability to see through walls and look into people’s homes (Burke and Warren 2002). Although through-the-wall-surveillance (TWS) technologies are touted as life-saving measures (see Miles 2007), the secrecy of these gadgets and their introduction without widespread public consultation or judicial oversight increases the likelihood of their misuse. While these technologies are mainly available only to military and law enforcement agencies, to date there is no legislation regulating their use or ensuring transparency or accountability on the part of those entrusted to use these devices for emergency, crime prevention and disaster relief purposes.

Read full article: “Under-Explored Threats to Privacy: See-Through-Wall Technologies and Electro- Magnetic Radiations” (local copy)

Threat to life is way bigger than threat to privacy if such technology is in wrong hands – and it’s impossible for such hands not to exists. Author is right – when these products emerged media wrote about them, since it was interesting technology, but later on nobody is ever mentioning them as to how and if they ever were used. Where are the stories of through wall radars saving lives? Technology got advanced to the point that it’s capable displaying 3d picture of the situation behind the wall.

Database of through wall radars


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