Use Yahoo? Government Agents Are Spying On Your Webcam.

Sexually explicit images are included in the data sweeps. And you thought phone and email surveillance was bad.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
Feb. 27, 2014, 5:27 a.m.

For­get about phone and email sur­veil­lance. New rev­el­a­tions from Ed­ward Snowden may dwarf those con­cerns, as top-secret doc­u­ments show that sur­veil­lance op­er­at­ives are col­lect­ing and stor­ing web­cam im­ages.

Brit­ish spies, in co­oper­a­tion with the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency, are col­lect­ing web­cam im­ages of mil­lions of In­ter­net users through a pro­gram known as “Op­tic Nerve,” ac­cord­ing to ex­cerpts of secret doc­u­ments pub­lished by The Guard­i­an on Thursday.

Dur­ing a six-month span in 2008, Brit­ish agents col­lec­ted still web­cam im­ages from more than 1.8 mil­lion Ya­hoo users world­wide, “in­clud­ing sub­stan­tial quant­it­ies of sexu­ally ex­pli­cit com­mu­nic­a­tions.” Snap­shots from Ya­hoo chats were taken once every five minutes and stored on the Brit­ish agency’s data­base.

Ya­hoo denied be­ing aware of the pro­gram pri­or to The Guard­i­an story.

“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,” a Ya­hoo spokes­per­son said in a state­ment to Na­tion­al Journ­al. “We are com­mit­ted to pre­serving our users’ trust and se­cur­ity and con­tin­ue our ef­forts to ex­pand en­cryp­tion across all of our ser­vices.”

The Brit­ish gov­ern­ment lacks the tech­nic­al abil­ity to dis­cern wheth­er the im­ages it col­lects are from its own cit­izens or from oth­ers, in­clud­ing Amer­ic­ans. There is no law in the United King­dom pre­vent­ing the col­lec­tion of im­ages from Amer­ic­ans’ web­cams without an in­di­vidu­al war­rant. Un­like the NSA, Brit­ish au­thor­it­ies face no leg­al re­quire­ment to scrub cer­tain in­form­a­tion gathered on cit­izens from its data­base.

Why Ya­hoo? Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, the In­ter­net gi­ant’s web­cam is “known to be used by [Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­nic­a­tions Headquar­ters] tar­gets.” GCHQ is the Brit­ish equi­val­ent of the NSA.

Des­pite the po­ten­tial for ter­ror­ists to use web­cams to com­mu­nic­ate, a doc­u­ment de­scribed as from the mid-2000s con­cedes, “One of the greatest hindrances to ex­ploit­ing video data is the fact that the vast ma­jor­ity of videos re­ceived have no in­tel­li­gence value what­so­ever, such as por­no­graphy, com­mer­cials, movie clips, and fam­ily home movies.”

An­oth­er clas­si­fied re­port ex­plains fur­ther the lim­it­a­tions of Op­tic Nerve:

“Un­for­tu­nately “¦ it would ap­pear that a sur­pris­ing num­ber of people use web­cam con­ver­sa­tions to show in­tim­ate parts of their body to the oth­er per­son. Also, the fact that the Ya­hoo soft­ware al­lows more than one per­son to view a web­cam stream without ne­ces­sar­ily send­ing a re­cip­roc­al stream means that it ap­pears some­times to be used for broad­cast­ing por­no­graphy.” 

Between 3 and 11 per­cent of the web­cam im­ages col­lec­ted are es­tim­ated to con­tain “un­desir­able nud­ity.” 

It is not clear ex­actly what level of ac­cess the NSA had to the data­base of im­ages, though in­form­a­tion was trans­ferred to the agency’s XKey­score search tool.

In a state­ment, the Amer­ic­an Civil Liber­ties Uni­on said the re­port “raises troub­ling ques­tions” about the NSA’s in­volve­ment in Op­tic Nerve.

“We need to know more about what the NSA knew, and what role it played,” Alex Abdo, an ACLU staff at­tor­ney, said.

What We're Following See More »
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
INFLUENTIAL APPROPRIATOR
Former Sen. Conrad Burns Dies in Montana
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Conrad Burns, the colorful livestock auctioneer and radio executive from Montana who served three terms as a senator, died on Thursday at age 81. Burns "was ousted from office in 2006 under the specter of scandal after developing close ties to "super-lobbyist" Jack Abramoff," although no charges were ever filed.

Source:
BETTING ON CARS
Biden Goes Max Biden at the Vatican
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In an exchange not ripped from the page of The Onion, Vice President Biden revealed to a Vatican cardinal that he's been betting reporters on which cars are faster. After meeting privately with Pope Francis, Biden met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. Within moments of greeting one another, Biden said that he'd met with the pope and, gesturing to the press pool, "I've met with these guys too." Singling out reporter Gardiner Harris, who recounted the exchange, he said, "I had to pay this man $10. He's from the New York Times. We had a bet: which is the faster car, the newer Cadillac or the new [Tesla]. ... The Tesla's two tenths of a second faster. But I lost. I paid my $10." He joked that he's "seeking absolution."

17 ARRESTED
Trump’s First California Rally Turns Ugly
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump held his first rally in California Thursday night, and things were chaotic: "Hundreds of demonstrators filled the street outside the Orange County amphitheater where ... stomping on cars, hurling rocks at motorists and forcefully declaring their opposition to the Republican presidential candidate. Traffic came to a halt as a boisterous crowd walked in the roadway, some waving American and Mexican flags. Protesters smashed a window on at least one police cruiser, punctured the tires of a police sport utility vehicle, and at one point tried to flip a police car."

Source:
×