Spying is brilliant, unless it's happening to you. In which case, not so good. And it turns out that the proliferation of technology throughout our everyday lives has led to some pretty terrifying developments in the government's ability to spy on its citizens.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent of the National Security Agency's (NSA) intrusion into ordinary Americans' lives and is now living in exile in Russia, has lifted the lid on the capabilities of British spies.
He told the BBC's Panorama that the UK Government Security Headquarters (GCHQ) has a programme nicknamed "The Smurfs", which enables it to turn on anyone's phone remotely, listen in on it, and track a subject's movements with 'greater than usual accuracy'.
"Dreamy Smurf is the power management tool which means turning your phone on and off without you knowing. Nosey Smurf is the hot mic-ing tool, so, for example, if it's in your pocket they can turn the microphone on and listen to everything that's going on around you."
A third programme, 'Tracker Smurf' allows the phone to be tracked closely. He said that "They want to own your phone instead of you" and added that the GCHQ was "for most intents and purposes a subsidiary of the NSA", borrowing the technology it possessed and listening to its guidance.
The claims have been given legitimacy by the fact that Amnesty International has previously leveled similar accusations.
A GCHQ spokeswoman said: "It is long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK's interception regime is entirely compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights."
Well, they would say that wouldn't they?
Still. if we decide to get into high-level spying, we can simply consult Big Train, as below.