UK spied on personal Yahoo webcams

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

UK intel
This is a picture of the British intelligence headquarters, GCHQ.

Last June, a National Security Agency (NSA) employee named Edward Snowden revealed top-secret government information to the world: the US has been keeping track of citizens’ private phone conversations, both at home and abroad. According to the pages and pages of documents he shared with the public and a new investigative report analyzing these papers, British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been hacking Yahoo webcam users for years.

In the operation “Optic Nerve”, GCHQ spied on millions of Yahoo webcams to test the agency’s facial recognition system. Apparently, they chose webcam feeds of “unselected” users – individuals chosen at random, regardless of if they were suspected of being up to no good. From 2008 to 2010, the GCHQ took image snapshots for up to five minutes at a time from users all across the globe.

Yahoo claims it had no idea about Optic Nerve, and the company is not happy with the actions of the intelligence agencies. In fact, the NSA is still dealing with the consequences of spying on unsuspecting citizens, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims this monitoring does nothing to protect national security whatsoever. Thanks to legal action and public outcry, the NSA will soon be limited in what it can gather.

However, even though the data is supposed to be deleted after five years, the government wants to use the records in court, so the US Justice Department is asking a special surveillance court for permission to hold onto them longer. According to the request, it’s just for legal purposes; they will not go peek at the information, which is more than British spy agency GCHQ can claim!

Featured image courtesy of mofetos on Flickr. Image of UK intelligence building courtesy of Ministry of Defence on Wikimedia.