The government is spying on Yahoo users via their webcams and X-box, according to a report based on leaked Eric Snowden documents. Both the American and British governments are now accused of spying on citizens in their own home, sans either a warrant or just cause.
GCHQ, a British surveillance agency, was allegedly aided by the NSA during a quest to spy on approximately 2 million Yahoo users, according to a report in the London Guardian. The documents published by the news venue reportedly show that the British government agency intercepted millions of images as part of the Optic Nerve secret program. The paperwork also appears to show that Americans were also targeted and comprised a bulk of the collection data.
An excerpt from the Optic Nerve document:
“A report on the development of Optic Nerve – a web interface to display Yahoo webcam image sampled from unselected intercept and a system for proportionate target discovery. At the moment Optic Nerve’s data supply (run by B13) does not select but simply collects in bulk, and as a trade-off collects an image every five minutes. It would be helpful to incorporate selection and collect images at a faster rate for all targets. CS to find out from B13 if this is feasible. Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face. The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright. If you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target’s ID.”
One of the documents explaining the process urges the recipient to “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report.” Devices noted as potential surveillance tools include iris recognition cameras. Yahoo users were reportedly singled out for the NSA spying endeavor because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets.”
The document goes on to state that a multitude of the data collected contained sexually explicit imagery and nudity. Yahoo has condemned the online spying as a “whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy” and claims they knew nothing of the surveillance program.
The GCHQ spying program also reportedly included Xbox 360’s Kinect camera. The report stated that the Kinect camera generates “fairly normal webcam traffic” and is being evaluated as a useful surveillance tool. The “always on” camera featured on the Xbox One is allegedly very open to abuse by both governmental agencies and cyber hackers.