It’s hard to say anymore if this is the most egregious violation of privacy revealed under leaked documents detailing government espionage of digital sources, but capturing nude and sexual images from unsuspecting users not aware they’re being targeted, and not being targeted for any reason in particular, is definitely right up there.The so-called ‘Optic Nerve’ program is detailed in GCHQ files that span between 20 leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and also reveal that the NSA benefitted from the program, and its research helped identify Yahoo webcam network activity, The Guardian reports.
“Secretly intercepting and taking photographs from millions of people’s webcam chats is as creepy as it gets,” he said.
The images were collected in a searchable database, and used for experiments in facial recognition, to monitor known targets, and to discover new targets. for surveillance was taken because "Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets".
Unlike the US NSA, the UK GCHQ is not required by law to minimize the collection from domestic citizens, so UK citizens could have been targeted on the same level as non-UK citizens.
Though there were some limits to which photos security analysts were allowed to see, with bulk searches limited to metadata, security analysts were allowed to see "webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target".
Optic Nerve worked by collecting the information from GCHQ's large network of Internet cable taps, feeding into systems provided by the United States' National Security Agency.