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Appeared on: Thursday, February 27, 2014
GCHQ Collected Yahoo Webcam Images Of Users: report

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ had established a software that collected Yahoo webcam images of internet users in bulk, the Guardian reported today.

Citing secret documents, the British paper reports that GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing.

The surveillance program codenamed "Optic Nerve" was in operation between 2008 and 2012, according to the documents. It saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers. Then, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets.

The documents show that GCHQ trialled automatic searches based on facial recognition technology, for people resembling existing GCHQ targets.

GCHQ also implemented restrictions on the collection of sexually explicit images, but its software was not always able to distinguish between these and other images.

The spy agency eventually excluded images in which the software had not detected any faces from search results to prevent staff from accessing explicit images, the report added.

In a statement to the Guardian, Yahoo strongly condemned the Optic Nerve program, and said it had no awareness of or involvement with the GCHQ collection.

Accoding to the report, webcam information was fed into NSA's XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo's webcam traffic.




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