British agents spied on Yahoo users' 'intimate' webcam images, Snowden files reveal
Spies reportedly stored millions of images from webcam chat sessions – even when targets were not suspected of wrongdoing
Thursday 27 February 2014
British agents spied on millions of people through their webcams using a program likened to the surveillance system in George Orwell’s 1984, according to leaked secret documents.
The surveillance agency GCHQ used a hacking program codenamed Optic Nerve to view British citizens in their homes as they used the Yahoo! webcam chat system, the classified files revealed by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian show.
Up to 11 per cent of the images contained what agents called “undesirable nudity”, according to the documents. It is unclear exactly how much information was obtained using Optic Nerve. However, in six months in 2008, images were obtained from more than 1.8 million Yahoo! user accounts around the world.
Civil liberty campaigners expressed horror at the scale of the surveillance of people who were not suspected of a crime. Yahoo!, which said it had not been aware of the surveillance, said the revelations represented “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.
The documents show the legal status of the system was discussed, particularly in relation to using automated facial matching to identify the people in the pictures. “It was agreed that the legalities of such a capability would be considered once it had been developed, but that the general principle applied would be that if the accuracy of the algorithm was such that it was useful to the analyst,” one document from 2008 reads.
Nick Pickles, the director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said Orwell’s 1984 was “supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual”. “Secretly intercepting and taking photographs from millions of people’s webcam chats is as creepy as it gets,” he said.
Conservative MP David Davis, who has campaigned on civil liberties issues, said: “It is perfectly proper for our intelligence agencies to use any and all means to target people for whom there are reasonable grounds for suspicion of terrorism. It is entirely improper to extend such intrusive surveillance on a blanket scale to ordinary citizens.”
A GCHQ spokeswoman said: “We’re not commenting on anything.”
Life & Style blogs
Watching TV after work makes you feel 'guilty and like a failure'
NHS medics are being lured away to Australia by more money, status and sunshine, survey suggests
Xiaomi Mi4: 'Chinese Apple' launches flagship mobile to challenge iPhone
Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Condom couture: Latex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
- 1 Calum Chambers: Southampton's latest example of Generation X-factor
- 2 Crash victims in car flattened by shipping container emerge with just minor injuries
- 3 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun become involved in Twitter row over Israel-Gaza conflict
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...
£400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...