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I was watching "Enemy of the State" last night and at one stage I was convinced some of the stuff (such as the satellite tracking) was a bit far fetched. But given the age of that movie and the fact that terrorist attacks are often foiled it's probably not unrealistic to an extent. How realistic is that stuff and given that the movie is so old, are techniques even further advanced than they are portrayed?

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I don't think the surveillance satellite was that unrealistic. However, the free rotation and 3D reconstruction of a shopping bag just from a simple surveillance camera in a lingerie shop surely was. –  Napoleon Wilson Sep 8 '12 at 11:58
    
Is this answerable at all? –  iandotkelly Sep 8 '12 at 15:51
    
@iandotkelly You need to have seen the movie, obviously. –  Andy Sep 8 '12 at 18:22
    
@Andy, well yes clearly. I saw the movie when it came out and presumed that everything was unrealistic, but how would we know? My only thought is that there is a reason why the western military still use reconnisance planes and drones. –  iandotkelly Sep 8 '12 at 18:57
    
I was the same but it was nowhere near as far fetched as, say, some of the techniques used in a James Bond movie. The wire tapping and facial recognition I can imagine are commonplace in the fight against terrorism. –  Andy Sep 8 '12 at 19:11

1 Answer 1

Technology will have moved on in even the 15 years since Enemy of the State was being put together, and much of that movement has been in precisely the areas OP asks about.

For example, this paper includes a chart showing how satellite camera resolution continues to improve, and this article confirms the increased military use of "drone" (unmanned) planes, which are more often configured for surveillance than attack.

Police forces in the UK are or soon will be using small drone helicopters that will be too high up and quiet for you to hear, but easily capable of seeing when you illegally drop a cigarette butt on the pavement.

According to statistics, the average [UK] citizen is caught on CCTV cameras 300 times a day, and according to that BBC link, analysts expected a tenfold increase in the next five years after 2002 when that article was written.

I can't find a source, but I recall reading a few weeks ago of plans install dozens of sensitive directional microphones in Wembley Stadium, that with a bit of trivial processing power will enable operators to focus on a whispered conversation while 90,000 other people are shouting "Goal!"

OP might also consider in Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 movie The Conversation, where Gene Hackman brilliantly portrays a paranoid and personally-secretive surveillance expert. I'm not convinced the technology at the time was actually as good as what was portrayed, but it's much better today.

You don't have to be particularly paranoid to see the direction things are headed. Many "possible" technologies are never really taken up, but surveillance equipment is definitely on a roll.

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