IMAGE: PIRO4D — Pixabay (CC0)

Satellite surveillance: nowhere is private anymore

Enrique Dans
Jul 8 · 2 min read

An article in MIT Tech Review, “Soon, satellites will be able to watch you everywhere all the time”, reflects the growing concern about the threat to privacy from constantly improving technology that allows for ultra-high resolution satellite photography.

Restrictions, such as limiting resolution to 25 centimeters, which does not affect images for military use, are increasingly difficult to maintain: some Chinese companies offer images to US customers with resolutions of 10 centimeters, while others can provide HD video in real time of up to 90 seconds, or revisit a specific place up to 70 times a day. Satellite surveillance is relatively expensive but technically feasible, and increasingly simple and available to practically anyone, with fewer and fewer limitations.

The satellite network is an increasingly crowded environment. Following Elon Musk’s launch of Starlink, Amazon now wants to put 3,236 satellites into orbit to offer connectivity services, known as Project Kuiper, which has generated concern that along with its network of Ring cameras all over the world, the company intends to watch our every move.

The incentive grows to use satellite networks to obtain information and provides a range of highly valuable activity indicators. We are already surrounded by cameras equipped with facial recognition technologies that are still terribly inaccurate but should improve as their algorithms receive more and more information. At the same time, technologies such as lasers capable of identifying us at a distance based on our heartbeat, mean it has never been easier to keep tabs on anybody’s movements.

As these types of technologies improve, we need a public debate on their use and how to balance security and individual rights. When technologies that once seemed like a sci-fi dystopia becomes widely available, we need to seriously consider how we are going to use them, what they can offer, and above all, who will manage them and under whose supervision.


(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)