The UK’s premier spy agency, GCHQ, with the support of the NSA, has intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of innocent internet users, according to leaked documents. A surveillance program codenamed “Optic Nerve” collected still images from Yahoo webcam chats and stored them—regardless of whether the user posed any threat. The scale is pretty staggering: in a six-month period in 2008, the agency grabbed images from 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts. Yahoo stated that this is “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”. The electronic program, which “photographs” a user once every 5 minutes, did not differentiate between a user’s nationality.
The obvious cultural reference here is the “telescreens” used in George Orwell’s 1984.
According to the Guardian,
Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ’s huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. 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.
Rest of story here.