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Understanding Covert Surveillance-Definition, Types, Equipment

Covert surveillance refers to a discreet method of intelligence gathering, which involves the clandestine monitoring of a target’s movements, conversations, and other activities. This type of surveillance can be categorised into two main types: directed surveillance and intrusive surveillance.

Directed surveillance falls under an internal authorisation system by the public authorities employing it, while intrusive surveillance is subject to strict control and oversight, requiring a warrant from the Secretary of State. Covert surveillance has various applications, including counter-terrorism, crime prevention, national security, and more.

Highly skilled specialist surveillance officers carry out covert surveillance, operating in vehicles, on foot, or from fixed observation posts. These officers utilise various technologies for discreet communication, such as TETRA, GSM, or Wi-Fi. Covert surveillance can also yield evidence suitable for use in court.

Advantages of Covert Surveillance

Some key benefits of covert surveillance include:

  • Allowing surveillance activities to remain undetected by the targets, preventing them from altering their behaviour or relocating their criminal operations.
  • Facilitating the collection of high-quality video evidence for use in court or criminal investigations.
  • Enabling surveillance officers to delve deeper into a group’s behaviour and gain access to their concealed activities.

Suitable for a range of applications, including counter-terrorism, crime prevention, national security, traffic monitoring, and more.

Adaptable to various technologies and methods, depending on the environment and surveillance objectives.

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Covert Surveillance: Step-by-Step Process in Australia

The covert surveillance process in Australia can differ based on the state or territory, type of surveillance, objecives, methods, and legal framework. However, a general outline of the steps for covert surveillance is as follows:

  1. The requesting officer (the applicant) must review the council’s policy and determine that covert surveillance is necessary for a specific purpose.
  1. The applicant must assess whether authorisation aligns with the law, such as the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth) and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), and whether it is essential and proportionate to the surveillance objective.
  1. The applicant must prepare and submit a form to the authorising officer, outlining the type of surveillance (audio, optical, tracking, or data), target details, location, duration, expected benefits and risks, and safeguards to protect privacy.

The authorising officer is responsible for ensuring that all options have been thoroughly considered, including adherence to the council’s policy, and confirming that the surveillance is lawful, necessary, and proportionate. Additionally, the officer must acquire a warrant from a magistrate or judge prior to authorising covert surveillance.

The applicant is required to regularly monitor the progress and outcome of the surveillance, completing a review form which must be submitted to the authorising officer on the predetermined date.

Moreover, the applicant must cancel or destroy any surveillance devices or materials when they are no longer necessary or proportionate. This should be documented in a cancellation or destruction form, submitted to the authorising officer.

The authorising officer is also responsible for renewing or cancelling the warrant within a specified period (up to 90 days for audio or optical devices, up to 45 days for tracking devices, and up to 180 days for data devices) based on whether it remains necessary and proportionate. The officer must also inform the magistrate or judge of any renewals or cancellations

Frequently Used Covert Surveillance Equipment

Some of the most commonly utilised covert surveillance equipment includes:

Covert Cameras: Discreet devices capable of capturing video and audio without being detected. These cameras can be concealed within everyday objects like pens, glasses, clocks, and books or hidden within clothing and accessories such as buttons, ties, and hats. Covert cameras can be either wireless or wired, with options to transmit or record footage.

Wearable Cameras: Devices designed for attachment to the body or clothing of a surveillance officer or informant. These cameras record video and audio of the target’s activities and interactions. Wearable cameras can be integrated into items such as glasses, watches, and badges, or used as standalone devices that clip or strap onto the body.

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GPS Tracking Devices: Tools for monitoring the location and movement of a target’s vehicle or personal belongings. These devices can be attached to cars, bikes, bags, and more, or embedded within objects that the target frequently uses or carries, like keys, wallets, and phones. Either transmitting real-time data or storing information for retrieval later, GPS trackers fulfill both purposes.

Lawful Interception Equipment: These are specialized tools created to monitor and intercept an individual’s communications such as their phone calls, texts, and emails in adherence with the law. Phone lines, computer networks, or mobile devices can all support the installation of this equipment. It can alternatively be remotely deployed by utilizing wireless technologies or hacking methods.

Mobile Forensic Data Retrieval Devices

Devices for retrieving mobile forensic data are created to extract and analyze data from the mobile device of a target. This entails contact information as well as call logs, messages, photos and videos among others. To connect to the target’s device, these devices can use either physical means or wireless connections. Additionally, they possess the skill to go around security features such as passwords or encryption.

Covert Surveillance Laws in Australia

Covert surveillance falls under varying legal jurisdictions in Australia depending on factors such as type and purpose. Also, the laws across states and territories may vary significantly.

  • Conducting research without informing or obtaining permission from the subject is known as covert surveillance.
  • To prevent or investigate crimes or to obtain information for monitoring performance and gathering evidence, various entities may carry out covert surveillance. Private investigators, employers, media organizations, individuals or law enforcement agencies might be included in this.
  • The utilization of multiple devices like listening, optical, tracking, or data surveillance devices can be part of covert surveillance. Gathering information secretly is made possible by using these devices.

Covert surveillance must comply with a set of principles that include necessities such as proportionality, legality and accountability. In addition, hidden observation ought to observe the confidentiality and human rights of the subject and those influenced by it.

Types of Covert Surveillance

There are various types of covert surveillance, such as:

Covertly monitoring a target’s movements, conversations, and other public activities is what Directed Surveillance entails. Public authorities using this type of surveillance must have internal authorisation.

Intrusive Surveillance

Covert monitoring of targets within residential premises or private vehicles constitutes Intrusive Surveillance. The common method to attain this is by using eavesdropping devices. Strict control and oversight are required for this surveillance type and a warrant from the Secretary of State is necessary.

Technical Surveillance

 The target’s activities and interactions are captured using devices such as cameras, microphones, and recorders in Technical Surveillance. The information can be utilized for investigating purposes. Concealing these devices within clothing, everyday objects or other accessories is an option.

Electronic Surveillance

 The monitoring of the target’s location and movements by means of digital technologies like computers, mobile phones, and GPS trackers is known as Electronic Surveillance. Additionally, intercepting and monitoring their communications is done, which involve phone calls, text messages, and emails. Installation of this type of surveillance on the target’s device is possible, or one can resort to remote deployment via either wireless technologies or hacking techniques.

Covert Surveillance vs Outdoor Covert Surveillance

Discreet observation of a subject without their knowledge or consent is what covert surveillance refers to. Two categories of this type of surveillance include directed and intrusive surveillance.

To observe the behavior, movement and interaction of a target in public places, directed surveillance is employed. The public authorities using this type of surveillance have implemented an internal authorization system for it.

Covertly monitoring a target within their residential or vehicular property using eavesdropping devices is called intrusive surveillance. Moreover, this form of observation is regularly performed without the target’s awareness or agreement. Strict control and oversight are necessary to conduct this type of surveillance, requiring a warrant from the Secretary of State.

A particular type of directed surveillance is outdoor covert monitoring. The act of capturing video and audio of a target’s activities and interactions in outdoor settings like streets. Parks, and car parks requires the use of devices like cameras, microphones, and recorders. One can effectively disguise these devices as everyday objects or conceal them within clothing and accessories. Furthermore, specialized private investigators of surveillance with high training may execute outdoor undercover examination either on foot or through automobiles.

Covert Surveillance Pricing in Australia

Covert surveillance prices in Australia may vary depending on the type of surveillance, duration, equipment used, service provider, and location. Some examples of covert surveillance prices in Australia are:

A hidden covert spy camera, capable of capturing video and audio discreetly, can range from $100 to $800, depending on features, quality, and design.

A counter surveillance service, which detects and removes unwanted spying devices from a home or vehicle, may cost between $500 to $5000, depending on the size, complexity, and location of the sweep.

A wireless signal detector, able to find and locate hidden cameras, microphones, GPS trackers, or other spy devices, can range from $690 to $1290, depending on the sensitivity, range, and functionality of the detector.

Trust on AusCovert Investigations for covert surveillance

If you need covert surveillance services in Australia, you can trust on AusCovert Investigations to deliver professional, discreet and effective results. This is a licensed and experienced private investigation agency that specialises in covert surveillance for various purposes, such as infidelity, fraud, child custody, insurance claims and more. We have a team of highly trained and skilled surveillance operatives who use the latest technology and techniques to gather evidence and intelligence for your case. We also provide detailed reports and video footage of the surveillance activities, ensuring that you have the proof you need. Whether you need covert surveillance for personal or business reasons, we can help you find the truth and protect your interests. Contact AusCovertInvestigations team today for a free consultation and quote.

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