15: Are You Being Observed? The shady business of corporate surveillance

I am afraid I have some bad news for you. Some of your closest colleagues could, in fact, be deceitful buggers. If you work in the accountancy profession you may already have suspected this.

Industrial espionage is a real hazard in the modern workplace. Copying of ideas has always been rife - but nowadays corporate surveillance extends far further than this.

There is, in all probability, someone in your office who is keeping an eye on every move you make. This is not your "Supervisor" - who is being paid double your annual salary to keep an eye on every move made by the buttocks of young secretaries walking past the office window. It is more likely to be the Post Boy who is in fact a trained double-agent (hence the way he always puts your post in the big oak tree by the pond, instead of in your In-Tray).

It's a well known fact that most office pilfering is committed by those within the company. Some staff make no secret of their criminal tendencies, by having the word "Chairman" actually displayed on their office door. Others are more secretive and require more devious methods to catch them red-handed (or in the case of The Phantom Tippex Purloiner, white-fingered).

Companies are increasingly resorting to James Bond-style tactics to catch out unscrupulous staff. Surveillance cameras are now widespread. During your career, there is a real danger that you could be caught on film doing something highly embarrassing and totally out of character. Like working.

Inventors have recently patented a miniature surveillance camera identical in dimensions to a credit card. Of course, cameras can be concealed practically anywhere. In a few years, covert surveillance will be so widespread that the only item of office equipment NOT capable of capturing precise, high- definition photographic records at the push of a button will be the photocopier (which will continue to produce indecipherable, smudgy hieroglyphics in a uniform shade of dark grey.)

The world of workplace espionage is soon to be portrayed in new James Bond thrillers, The Man With The Golden Handshake and The Spy Who Loved Memos. Meanwhile, here are some telltale signs that Big Boss is watching you...

When someone puts a briefcase down, someone else walks past, picks it up, replaces it with an identical one and mutters that "the Black Swans are flying over the Kremlin tonight".

Instead of MD, the Managing Director just wants to be called "M".

The hold music on the switchboard is Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger.

The chairman's car turns into a submarine when he presses the cigarette lighter.

You begin talking to your pot plants. They talk back.

Your manager swaps his C&A shirt for a black roll-neck sweater.

You see yourself on Crimewatch looting the stationery cupboard.

The boss doesn't use a dictaphone any more, he just talks more clearly than usual into his cuff links.

When someone leaves, they're given a watch inscribed "Don't Let The Buggers Get You Down".

The temp is called Moneypenny.

You can only be positive that none of your workmates is a spy if you work at MI5, where due to budget constraints, the spies have been sacked in favour of more cost-effective "Administrators".

If you suspect you may be being spied on at work, you should have this matter dealt with by the proper channels (such as Channel 5, who are always on the lookout for fly-on-the-wall documentaries).

Or contact a union. Equity is a good union to start with - if you're going to be on one of those "Funny Surveillance Footage" videos, you should at least get the hourly rate for being a TV extra.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?