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Report: UK spies intercept webcam pics, nudity

Report: UK Spy Agency Stored Millions Of Yahoo Webcam Images

LONDON (AP) - Britain's signals intelligence division is stealing screenshots from hundreds of thousands of innocent Yahoo users' webcam videos, according to the Guardian newspaper, which also reported that the years-long operation has swept up a huge haul of intimate photographs.

The newspaper said GCHQ has been scooping up the sensitive images by intercepting video chats such as the kind offered by Yahoo Messenger, an effort codenamed OPTIC NERVE. It's not clear how many Yahoo users were spied on in this way. The Guardian said that in one six-month period in 2008 GCHQ intercepted the video communications of 1.8 million users, but it's possible that the program, which the Guardian says was still active in 2012, has either grown or shrunk in scope since then.

The Guardian said the documents were provided by former U.S. intelligence worker Edward Snowden, who remains in Russia after having sought temporary asylum there.

Yahoo Messenger has 75 million users worldwide, according to a recent estimate by digital analytics company comScore.

If confirmed, the Guardian's report would represent "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy," Yahoo Inc. said in a written statement. The Sunnyvale, California-based company said it was unaware of such snooping and would never condone it, calling on governments across the world to reform their surveillance practices.

Like the NSA's collection of millions of innocent people's phone, email, and credit card data, the webcam surveillance program was carried out in bulk, creating a massive database where the communications of hundreds of thousands of people could later be scanned by analysts for clues or patterns.

However, unlike the phone database, OPTIC NERVE also automatically downloaded the content of video communications - taking a screenshot from the video feed every five minutes, the Guardian said. One snippet of a leaked document published to the Guardian's website appears to show that GCHQ hoped to eventually "collect images at a faster rate," or perhaps even download all the webcam videos in their entirety.

Even at one screenshot every five minutes, material published to the Guardian's website appeared to show U.K. analysts being deluged with X-rated footage.

"It would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person," another snippet of an intelligence document published said. It went on to say that an informal study had found that between 3 and 11 percent of all the images carried "undesirable nudity."

The Guardian said that OPTIC NERVE was intended at least in part to identify targets using automatic facial recognition software as they stared into their computer's webcams. But the stockpiling of sexually explicit images of ordinary people had uncomfortable echoes of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," where the authorities - operating under the aegis of "Big Brother" - fit homes with cameras to monitor the intimate details of people's home lives.

"At least Big Brother had the decency to install his own cameras," British media lawyer David Banksy said in a message posted to Twitter after the revelations broke. "We've had to buy them ourselves."

The collection of nude photographs also raise questions about potential for blackmail. America's National Security Agency has already acknowledged that half a dozen analysts have been caught trawling databases for inappropriate material on partners or love interests. Other leaked documents have revealed how U.S. and British intelligence discussed leaking embarrassing material online to blacken the reputations of their targets.

GCHQ refused to answer a series of questions about OTPIC NERVE, instead returning the same boilerplate answer it has given to reporters for months.

"It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters," the agency said, insisting all its work was legal, necessary, proportionate, and subject to rigorous oversight.

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quincy_maxwell February 28 2014 at 10:15 AM

Ah, too funny for those of you have not been following along. Just consider how Yahoo, MSN, FB and others sold us out. This story is not news....just another divulgence of what has been going on that is being kept from us. Consider MSN joining up with SKYPE, ( buying them out )...because of government pressures. And now that MSN has their hands on Skype, you can bet the NSA has a hand on that site as well. After all MSN wasn't one of the first to give in to the government, were they? Of course they were.
* Note: The government is working with a certain television manufacturer to find a way to put a camera in TV sets. Think about that the next time you pay your taxes and vote.

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chckpope February 28 2014 at 10:09 AM

They allow spammers and every other degenerate to clog up their site, what did they expect? I hope this puts an end to this once and for all.

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vafilec_39 February 28 2014 at 9:40 AM

Yep, don't discuss politics, religion, blacks, etc. either. If some of the Yahoo users don't like what you are saying along with the people at Yahoo (when its the truth .......you are not allowed to speak it), just cut you off and you lose all your personal items, like family pictures that you forgot to back up. No I did not swear (you know the 4+ letter words), the strongest words were uneducated, lacking in the knowledge department. No racist remarks, but just said that BO was an illegal president. Freedom of truth seems to not exist anymore.

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hullblkbelt February 28 2014 at 7:58 AM

Telephones, emails, IM's Car tracking with On star, yep they can hear you there too. The Goverment does not work for the people any more, it works for itself and we are all good little drones for them. Less you get out of hand and are taken away. 1939 is here to stay, Yes folks, The goon squads are ramping up to haul yer ass off to the camps that are already build for us. , Yes they do exist.. Every wher you look the spy cameras are there, Keeping (you ) safe. Drones in the air, phone tappin, even when you gas up,, the pump is watching you.. Think I am full of ****, look at the new pumps, they even have signs, saying you are being watched for your safety. I need someone to watch me pump gas??? Dam , I feel safe now. Well Big Brother, I say FU . Watch all you want. I will give you the finger every chance I get. Oh by the way, every thing that you buy and how you spend your money cash or credit is tracked. In case some of you didnt know it.. the (new money) is bar coded and can be scaned even while in your purse, wallet and hidden in your home, Care to also look at the new plates on your car or truck, yep the scaning bars are there too . I wonder why?? every new street cam is capable of reading the bar codes day and night.. Follow the yellow brick road Dourthy. U aint in Kanas any more....

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Debbie February 28 2014 at 6:25 AM

Lets see if I have this right....the people that are doing Xrated stuff on cam (over the air) are yelling their privacy has been violated...it has already been said anything that goes over the internet or the air is not private so I'd advise the Xrated industry to remember this in the future.

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1 reply to Debbie's comment
John February 28 2014 at 6:51 AM

Debbie odds are the webcams were activated by the spies without the user even being aware the camera was on. There have been many many reports of how nefarious individuals can turn on microphones and cameras of there target without any indicator coming on to tell the target thier cameras is activated.

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frozenbull February 28 2014 at 5:15 AM

This what happens when societies spend morning noon and night 24/7 365, on computers IPhones and all the other things that we can't live without. You have no privacy and never will . Its the very thing we cherish the most in this country and we lost it on our own.

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CPA11973 February 28 2014 at 2:06 AM

you mean they beat the NSA to the pinch. Shame on the NSA (:

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quincy_maxwell February 28 2014 at 10:10 AM

I bet the NSA has already done this. But since they are cloaked in the secrecy and do everything they can to skit the FOIA ( Freedom Of Information Act ), we'll never know. Because our government today, since 9-11, is the most intrusive, non-transparent government in the history of our country. And it will only get worse. And we continues to allow it because we the people, are cowards and will do nothing about it. You think just by voting fixes this? Not. Never will. Voting is nothing more than just hiring the latest scammer with resume full of lies that we eat up like bees on honey.

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wampas1984 February 28 2014 at 1:52 AM

I don't even use yahoo OR my webcam......in fact I have a piece of tape covering it at ALL times! So go ahead and hack it and you can enjoy staring at the nice shade of BLACK lmao

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Master February 28 2014 at 1:15 AM

heres a thought if you think nudity is undesirable stop checking out video chats between constenting adults

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chuck February 28 2014 at 12:56 AM

i guess they got the know how from oboma?

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frozenbull February 28 2014 at 5:19 AM

That a boy Chuck ,you haven't let me down. I knew I would see Obama's name or Bush's name not far down the page

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bnevrgivup February 28 2014 at 5:24 AM

Bush is far more appropriate! It should however be expanded to include his Administration and the Banking and Financial Industries.

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