The United Kingdom’s counterpart to the US’ NSA has taken and stored millions of webcam photos from Yahoo users. This report, originating from Snowden documents and detailed in The Guardian, adds to the distrust that many people now have towards the GCHQ in Britain.
According to the GCHQ, all of its activities are completely legal and it targeted Yahoo users because the Yahoo webcam service is used by some of the agency’s targets.
The Snowden documents reveal that the collection of these pictures has been active since 2008, with the documents being dated between 2008 and 2010. Based upon The Guardian’s report, the GCHQ collected and stored 1.8 million pictures in a single six-month timeframe.
It is easy to extrapolate this information and assume that a significant number of nude or otherwise private pictures were taken by the GCHQ, which is likely to cause anger among Yahoo users.
Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person, – GCHQ, in a Snowden document
Yahoo told The Register, in response to the original Guardian report, that it does not condone the GCHQ’s activities detailed in the documents. “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,” wrote Yahoo.
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. – GCHQ
Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have already complained about these revelations, stating that these activities are infringing on privacy while not having a true effect on terrorism.
All of the disgust and blame cannot be directed at the GCHQ however. Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU notes that Yahoo chose not to encrypt its traffic, allowing the British spy agency to have full access to the webcam pictures.
Summary: New Snowden documents have revealed that the GCHQ spied on millions of people via the Yahoo webcam service.
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