The “Thing,” also known as the Great Seal bug, was one of the first covert listening devices used for espionage, hidden inside a wooden replica of the seal of the U.S., presented as a gift from the Soviets to the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow in 1945. Since then, the capabilities and portability of spy technologies have advanced tremendously, allowing anybody with the right equipment to play J.B. (James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer). 

Furthermore, the proliferation of mobile smart technologies have made spying on others even easier. According to a recent article, Russian information technology company, Infowatch, created a system that allows companies to intercept employees’ mobile phone conversations. The Moscow-based company already sells products that allow companies to monitor employee e-mails and other activities.

According to Infowatch, the goal behind creating the technology was to prevent information leaks, especially for companies that depend on protecting trade secrets. Despite good intentions, however, such advanced technologies could be used for nefarious reasons. 

For example, a Russian facial recognition startup company N-Tech Lab recently created a facial recognition application called FindFace, which allows users to search for others using a photo, rather than a name. Not surprisingly, this technology is already being abused. 

According to Russian publication TJournal, some FindFace users started to use the facial recognition service to match explicit photos of former porn actresses and sex workers with images posted on VK, outing them to friends and family.

To keep up with the constantly evolving world of privacy and security sign up for the Bloomberg BNA Privacy and Security Update.