Yahoo, webcam images intercepted and stored

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YahooGCHQ and NSA captured millions of images worldwide, many sexually explicit.

The British surveillance agency GCHQ and the United States National Security Agency (NSA) have intercepted and stored webcam images of millions of users worldwide of the online news and social networking provider Yahoo .

GCHQ documents dated between 2008 and 2010 were provided to the Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. They show the surveillance programme – codenamed Optic Nerve – saved one image every five minut es from randomly selected Yahoo webcam chats and stored them on agency databases.

This was partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents show that in one six-month period in 2008, the agency collected webcam imagery – substantial quantities of which were sexually explicit – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo said the actions of the surveillance agencies represented “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”.

“We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity,” she said. “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. We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”

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