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.
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.
"Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for 'mugshots' or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face," it reads.