Mass surveillance: Video surveillance

Some countries now have more surveillance cameras than citizens. Video surveillance aims to capture the identity of everyone who passes through a space and to extend its coverage to as much space as possible for deterrence and incrimination.

If a crime occurs, relevant video footage can be analyzed retroactively; can the perpetrator be identified by their face, gait, physical characteristics, voice, etc.? Was there any suspicious activity in the time leading up to the crime? Surveillance cameras integrated into a central CCTV network can be monitored by humans in real time, either as part of routine police surveillance or during exceptional events (e.g. demonstrations).

Surveillance cameras can vary widely in quality, range, night vision capabilities, presence of microphones, etc. Video footage is increasingly processed by automated license plate readers or facial recognition algorithms to alert authorities to suspicious behavior or simply to automate the tracking of all individuals throughout their daily lives to facilitate the retrieval of something of interest.

In addition to traditional CCTV cameras, police can retrieve or request video footage from a variety of additional sources during an investigation:

  • Cameras that monitor the exterior or interior of shops, offices, etc.
  • Public transport cameras on buses, trains, highways, etc.
  • Home surveillance systems such as Amazon Ring
  • In-vehicle surveillance systems like those found on Teslas

See the topics video surveillance and automated license plate readers.

Used in tactics: Deterrence, Incrimination


Name Description
Anonymous dress

With anonymous dress, CCTV footage should not be able to provide a valuable description of you during the action or prior reconnaissance, which could otherwise be used to facilitate an arrest or as evidence in court.

Anonymous purchases

By taking steps to purchase items anonymously, video surveillance from stores should not be able to link you to materials used in an action.


There are many ways to disable surveillance cameras.

Biometric concealment

Gait recognition can be avoided by wearing baggy clothing that hides the shape of the body, using umbrellas and a "funny walk" when filmed by surveillance cameras. To avoid facial recognition, a mask should be used to hide facial features, and sunglasses or a hat with a low brim should be used to hide eyes.

Outdoor and device-free conversations

Sensitive conversations should be held away from surveillance cameras, as they may have microphones.


The location of surveillance cameras can be identified in advance and plans can be made to avoid them if possible.

Transportation by bike

A bike is much harder to identify than a car, especially if its distinguishing features are minimized. A different stolen bike can be used for each action.

Used in repressive operations

Name Description
Repression of Lafarge factory sabotage

Immediately after the action, investigators requested CCTV footage from public transportation (buses, train stations, etc.), businesses, home surveillance systems, and municipal cameras, all within an extended perimeter of the action site[1]. In particular, footage of the interiors of buses appears to have helped identify people traveling to and from the action site[2]. Investigators also requested footage from highway toll booths, presumably to identify the occupants of known cars traveling on highways to or from the action site.

Repression of the first Jane's Revenge arson

CCTV footage helped identify a vehicle driven by the comrade who was later arrested, when they were seen entering a parking lot on foot after a demonstration, and the vehicle was seen leaving the same parking lot a few minutes later[3].

2019-2020 case against Mónica and Francesco

Public CCTV footage was extensively used by investigators to reconstruct the movements of Mónica and Francesco before and during the attacks, despite the mitigations they took (taking taxis, changing clothes, wearing disguises)[4].

The three from the park bench

On the evening leading up to the arrests, one of the comrades - while being followed by cops - stopped at a gas station and was seen by the station's video surveillance cameras buying gas and filling a gas can[5]. The cops got the surveillance footage the next morning.


According to the investigation files, two of the accused comrades were seen on a video surveillance camera leaving a store where investigators believe the envelopes used to prepare the parcel bombs were purchased[6].