Surveillance software is an extremely powerful tool for criminal investigations, giving government and law enforcement agencies a method to efficiently and quietly locate lawbreakers without a leaving a trace. But just as any proper spy movie has taught us, the same software can be used to acquire information from innocent people for less honorable purposes. The New York Times recently spoke with Morgan Marquis-Boire, a Google engineer, and Bill Marczak, who is working on earning a PhD in computer science, about their own investigation into software known as FinSpy, a legal spyware tool intended for use by governments to monitor criminals.

What the two found is a worst-case scenario for individuals concerned with freedom and the protection of their personal information. In their analysis, they discovered that FinSpy had been used to track and deliver malware to Bahraini political activists, even those with no criminal records. And it didn't stop there, Marquis-Boire and Marczak's reports — which are available for public viewing — identify additional countries that used the software for similar reasons. Head over to the Times to see what else Marquis-Boire and Marczak have discovered in the last four months, what the Electronic Frontier Foundation has to say about it, and how Amazon's EC2 cloud service may have played a role in the ordeal.