Is AI-Driven Surveillance Beneficial and what are its Implications on Privacy?

The Issue

AI has become pervasive and can be found in every aspect of our lives. From our cars to homes, we encounter at least one AI-driven device daily. However, one that has attracted much attention in the field of AI is its use in surveillance. Around the world, companies and governments have implemented a robust surveillance infrastructure that is AI-driven. For instance, in the aftermath of 9/11, the US developed a robust surveillance infrastructure that has been a crucial part of the country’s security apparatus in protecting US citizens’ lives by allowing threat monitoring, tracking, and mitigation before actual attacks happen.

The Benefits

Although surveillance space is only viewed from the perspective of tracking and monitoring people, people must understand surveillance is a multidimensional paradigm that spans all areas of life. Surveillance takes any form of information collection by companies or governments, ranging from covertly collecting information about online sites and individual visits to the more overt surveillance of people using street cameras. AI-driven surveillance has become an important aspect of the operations of security agencies and companies. Surveillance allows them to understand the users’ dynamics or targets by providing seamless information crucial in making relevant decisions.
Not only does AI surveillance play an important role in security, but it has also become an important cog in the robust safety and enforcement ecosystem. AI surveillance through video analytics has become part of the online ecosystem where surveillance systems are deployed online to reason, detect and flag irregular behaviours or transactions that could be impossible for a human to detect. Similarly, AI surveillance is crucial in parking occupancy, traffic monitoring, and vehicle analytics by tracking and providing detailed complex information that would otherwise take humans ages to compile.
AI surveillance is an important part of the customer experience. Companies invest huge sums of money in developing customer tracking software to understand their tastes and preferences and improve their experience with the brands. Through surveillance, brands track the sites that customers visit, what they purchase, and with this information, brands make an informed decision on what their customers want and how to fulfil that want. Further, by understanding their customers, brands learn how their customers want to have their products or services, thus improving customer experience.

Our View

AI surveillance’s ability to monitor and process every frame 24/7, allowing persistent monitoring, gives rise to concerns of a big-brother style mass surveillance and masses’ control. Further, collecting information such as personal shopping history raises important privacy issues that need an adequate and urgent address. As such, the government and all stakeholders alike must work in tandem to ensure that a colossal infringement of the right to privacy does not happen.

Otherwise, if explicit laws and ethical guidelines to control surveillance are not established, the world will head to digital authoritarianism, a fete impossible to come out.



Walch, K. (2019, December 28). Ethical Concerns of AI. Retrieved from

Nouri, S. (2020, December 03). Council Post: How AI Is Making An Impact On The Surveillance World. Retrieved from

Sahin, K. (2020, December 22). The West, China, and AI surveillance. Retrieved from

Sarah Klain

Written by:

Sarah Klain