In recent years, satellite imagery, previously restricted to the defence and intelligence communities, has been made available to a range of non-state actors as well. Non-governmental organisations, journalists, and celebrities such as George Clooney now use remote sensing data like digital Sherlock Holmeses to investigate and reveal human rights abuses, political violence, environmental destruction, and eco-crimes from a distance. It is often said that the increasing availability and applicability of remote sensing technologies has contributed to the rise of what can be called ‘satellite-based activism’ empowering non-state groups to challenge state practices of seeing and showing. In this article we argue that NGO activism is not challenging the sovereign gaze of the state but, on the contrary, actually reinforcing it. We will bolster our arguments in this regard in two prominent fields of non-governmental remote sensing: human rights and environmental governance.