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ICYMI- Post-Snowden: Webcams Spied on, with Intimate Results

Generation of New Technology
Post-Snowden: webcams spied on, with intimate results
Posted March 1st, 2014 – 05:48 am ET

A new scandal has been revealed through documents leaked by the previous NSA security consultant Edward Snowden. These revelations just don’t seem to end.

This time, the NSA was only providing technical support to their British counterparts at GCHQ who intercepted pictures from the webcams of thousands of users. These internet users were not even necessary suspected of committing crimes.

An article in The Guardian explains that between 2008 and 2010 the British spy agency implemented a program nicknamed Optic Serve which collected data from the cables that transported internet traffic. This spy program appeared to still be active in 2012.

In the first six months, Optic Serve was concentrating on pictures from the webcams of more than 1.8 millionYahoo Messenger users. A picture was saved every five minutes. It was the NSA who developed the tools that allowed the identification of webcam traffic from Yahoo and the collection and processing of the information with their XKeyscore search tool.

During the massive collection of this information, GCHQ appears to have realised that video’s taken with webcam’s were at time rather intimate. Between 3% and 11% of the webcam pictures collected contained nudity qualified as “undesirable” in a document.

With a certain degree of success, GCHQ decreed that such images couldn’t be viewed by their agents. A facial recognition solution was also used to try to censor offensive images. A process for cutting the metadata also allowed for targeted searches of the pictures.

While The Guardian indicates that a document was evaluated for the possibility of operating a similar surveillance program for the Xbox 360 Kinect, Yahoo has denied any knowledge of such a program, and has proclaimed that this was “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy.

The Internet Association, which groups together large internet company’s (Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Amazon, eBay…), are talking of “alarming practices undertaken by the British intelligence agency.”

These new revelations are certainly enough to infuriate users.