(The Hosting News) – British government agency GCHQ, aided by the NSA, intercepted millions of images from webcams across the globe, reports The Guardian.
The surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, collected images of Yahoo webcam users dating back from 2008 to 2010, in which included large amounts of sexually explicit images from more than 1.8 million users globally.
According to documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the program began in 2008 as a prototype, but was still active in 2012.
The program was designed to use in experiments in automated facial recognition to monitor GCHQ targets in which collected images of “unselected” users every five minutes.
“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,” states one document. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”
The agency used Yahoo specifically because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets.”
Yahoo denied any knowledge of the Optic Nerve program and said it does not condone such activity.
“We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity,” said a spokeswoman. “This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.”