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GCHQ collected webcam images from millions of Yahoo users

February 28, 2014

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The Guardian has published an article based on one of the documents released to them by Edward Snowden revealing that British intelligence agency GCHQ has been collecting data from webcams of Yahoo Chat users. The system called “Optic Nerve” did not record whole conversations but only one image every five minutes. The images run through the face detection then served for target identification purposes. The document admits that a certain percent of the collected images included sexually explicit content (between 3 and 7%). The material claims that GCHQ analysts were able to search only metadata and the images were displayed to them only in case the metadata suggested that the Yahoo user may be identical to the target of surveillance (including similar username). Optic Nerve program was running from 2008 at least till 2012 which is the year when the document was produced. The Yahoo company denied any knowledge of the program and calls it “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.

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