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Understanding private surveillance providers and technologies

29 January, 2024



This policy paper seeks to determine the potential for the existing international private military and security companies (PMSC) regulatory framework to support more effective regulation of private surveillance services.

In order to achieve this, and given that this paper addresses an issue that is at the intersection of the two domains, it seeks to establish a common language and terminology between security sector governance and surveillance practitioners.

  • In section I, the paper offers an introduction to the different private surveillance technologies and services. In understanding the scope of surveillance capabilities, it becomes possible to be able to evaluate to what extent they could be considered as private security services. This also becomes true when addressing the companies offering such services and technologies as private security providers.
  • Section II provides some examples of how surveillance impacts the right to privacy and other human rights. It highlights how infringements of the right to privacy by private surveillance providers and technologies result in chains of cause and effect on other rights (such as the right to life).
  • Section III observes and evaluates how existing international norms and good practices for private security regulation (namely, the Montreux Document, the International Code of Conduct and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) can serve as a basis for strengthening the regulation of some private surveillance providers and technologies. It further offers specific recommendations on next steps and actions that need to be taken to ensure that private surveillance services are appropriately and effectively covered and overseen by the PMSC regulatory framework.  
The systemic violation of an individual’s or a community’s right to life highlights the grave consequences of insufficient regulation of the private security sector. This requires clear legal frameworks and strong oversight mechanisms to ensure that these technologies are used in a manner that is compatible with human rights.


Jessica Miller and Catherine Minahan