New Surveillance Technology May Compromise Privacy


This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

The growing threat of radical terrorism and organized crime in Sweden has sparked government-led homeland security initiatives to finance projects driven by advanced technology. The national police administration and homeland security agencies are cooperating to trial CCTV-audio surveillance equipment in Stockholm. The government has prioritized funding for specialist counter-terrorism agencies, such as Säpo (Säkerhetspolisen), Sweden’s national security service, which also has counter-espionage duties.

According to, this is the first time Swedish law enforcement has been permitted to deploy audio detection equipment in public spaces. The new generation of sensors being used in the pilot project are capable of picking up and identifying the location of sounds, such as gunshots, explosions and breaking glass, and reporting them to central police monitoring stations in real time.

Joakim Söderström, head of the National Police Authority’s (NPA) camera surveillance unit, said “the use of advanced camera and audio technologies will enable police to respond to incidents more quickly. It means shortening response times by up to two minutes compared with a citizen reporting an incident to a national emergency hotline number.” “Using this technology means we can quickly determine whether the sound of any gunfire detected comes from a machine-gun or a handgun, for example,” said Söderström.

The pilot program will initially be operated in Stockholm’s densely populated Järva district. The County Admin. Board CAB had already given permission for the NPA to conduct wider-range video surveillance in a number of high-crime urban and suburban residential areas of greater Stockholm, including the concealing of new camera and audio surveillance equipment at public locations, making such equipment, including microphones, invisible to the public.

The project will see the “placement” of hundreds of high-sensitivity compact microphones in urban communities selected for the pilot, yet with important privacy limitations.

The technology will also help the police authority to combat general crime. Sweden’s next-generation policing will put more emphasis on enhancing mobility and response times to crime and public safety incidents. The enhanced surveillance technology will be used to both support a more cost-efficient policing system and compensate for the continuing closure of traditional walk-in police stations in urban and rural areas across the country.