US & UK Spy Agencies Collected Millions of Images From Yahoo Webcam Chats, Builds Facial Recognition Database
Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats and stored still images of them, including sexually explicit ones, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 provided to the newspaper by the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, revealed that the surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, saved one image every five minutes from randomly selected Yahoo webcam chats and stored them on agency databases.
Optic Nerve, which began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, was intended to test automated facial recognition, monitor GCHQ’s targets and uncover new ones, the Guardian said.
Under British law, there are no restrictions preventing images of U.S. citizens being accessed by British intelligence, it added.
GCHQ collected images from the webcam chats of over 1.8 million users globally in a six-month period in 2008 alone.
The documents suggest that the spy agencies are also interested in spying on user’s through game consoles such as the Xbox One, which has a camera that is always on by default.