Invasion of privacy from   Screen capture from Don Jon.

Invasion of privacy by GCHQ into Yahoo users online habits includes sexually explicit dives.
Screen capture from the film Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Sundance smash starring Scarlet Johansson and Julianne Moore.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”. [Guardian]

SEXUALLY EXPLICIT images collected between 2008 – 2010 are part of the latest revelations about a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve, reported in the Guardian by Spencer Ackerman and James Ball.

Besides Yahoo reacting “furiously” to the latest reporting on their users being exploited, while claiming they hadn’t a clue, evidently GCHQ had their own troubles keeping the racy stuff away from their own employees.

You know, because that’s what matters here, though if you’re surprised by this you haven’t considered that the 9/11 hijackers were amusing themselves in a strip joint the days before they attacked the World Trade Center towers.

If you ever took a journey into an adult site between 2008 – 2010 as a Yahoo user, GCHQ just might have captured your very private and totally legal fantasy, just in case they might stumble across a terrorist.

From Ackerman and Ball in the Guardian:

Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ’s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” ““ intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

The Edward Snowden effect continues, this time with X-rated implications that send a chill through those moments online when you thought letting it all hang out was “private.” An intrusion that really does give a new meaning to big brother.

The program managed to collect a high volume of webcam imagery, including sex chat content, from over 1.8 million global Yahoo users in a single six month period in 2008, the report claims.

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.


If there is anything that people don’t want anyone snooping around in it’s their secret sex lives.