Signs of Surveillance

The ‘Signs of Surveillance’ project has grown from a photographic observation and collation activity that began in early 2016. Since that time thousands of photographs of ‘signs of surveillance’ have been captured from more than 15 countries including Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and UK.

The pervasive nature of surveillance, and the normalisation of the signs – both physical and metaphorical, is arresting when it is laid out how clearly intertwined this silent over-watch of endless surveillance cameras has become with our everyday lives. Across Europe and the wider globe, surveillance of the body public, of civic space, of every interaction in everyday society seems at saturation point.

This project aims to engage the public across Europe in a discussion of the surveillance colonisation of the physical environment around us by building, visualising and exploring an international database of ‘signs of surveillance’.


The in-depth project pages can be seen at


The existing corpus of images comprises over 2000 digital photographs taken across the globe since 2016. Each image is date, time and location tagged allowing easy geographic mapping and search and retrieval.

  • A compendium of the designs, locations and forms of the myriad of sign-types
  • A ‘traditional’ print exhibition of the most aesthetically pleasing photographs
  • An interactive 3D geo-map based visualisation (see figure 1)
  • An online web based searchable catalogue that asks for public contribution to extend and complete the European map of ‘Signs of Surveillance’
  • A machine vision image training set for recognition and identification of ‘signs of surveillance’ in the wild.

Interactive installation and web artwork

The source code for the current online web art installation version is available here;

The project and the generation of the interactive artwork in particular is the subjevct of a chapter in the forthcoming (summer 2020) Springer book ‘Arts, Design and Technology’ Editors Rae Earnshaw and Susan Liggett,  

You can read the text of the chapter online here

Computer Vision training Image Data Set

Section of images from the UK portion of training images
Example selection of images from the UK portion of training images in Signs of Surveillance image data training set

The dataset currently contains nearly 2,000 images illustrating ‘signs of surveillance’ and is explicitly created for the purpose of training computer vision systems to recognise places where computer vision systems or other kinds of video surveillance may be occurring. The contents of the dataset are based upon a six year project photographing, collecting and collating these signs in public spaces across the world indicating that CCTV surveillance is operating. These systems, and their associated warning signs increasingly indicated that automated trained machine vision systems such as ANPR (automated number plate recognition) and face recognition, amongst other systems, are being used. The original photographic collection runs to over 2000 images recorded in 15 different countries and includes images from Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, UAE, United Kingdom and United States.

The image set is principally designed for studying the problem of unconstrained CCTV sign recognition in the wild. Each image was prepared by hand to create a uniform set aspect ratio and pixel data per image ready for passing to the selected neural network model for training.

The images and dataset are ©2019 Daniel Buzzo and are free for non-commercial use with attribution. For commercial or other uses please contact the author at The Dataset for training neural networks and other image classifier systems is available to download from the project pages here;