UK Spies Stole Nude Images From Private Webcam Chats

Yahoo is incensed over latest Snowden leak in the 'Guardian'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2014 2:47 PM CST

(Newser) – The latest Edward Snowden scoop takes the invasion of privacy to what Yahoo calls a "whole new level." The Guardian explains why: British surveillance agency GCHQ harvested images from Yahoo video chats for years, including many that were sexually explicit. In fact, one agency document puts it thusly:

  • "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography."

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This particular program, called Optic Nerve, was in place from at least 2008 to 2010 and collected 1.8 million images in just one six-month span. The NSA provided assistance for Optic Nerve, which was launched in part to test facial-recognition software. The intercepted images and text came from people who were not suspected of any wrongdoing, and they included Americans. "This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable," says a Yahoo spokesperson. A TechCrunch blogger agrees: "It’s hard to say anymore if this is the most egregious violation of privacy revealed under leaked documents detailing government espionage of digital sources, but capturing nude and sexual images from unsuspecting users not aware they’re being targeted, and not being targeted for any reason in particular, is definitely right up there." Click for the full Guardian story. (Read more GCHQ stories.)

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