Friday, February 28, 2014

Spooks Go Ape Shit and Scarf Up Over 1.8 million Webcam Images

NSA ragout 4
When does it end? Where does it end? Have the NSA and GCHQ spooks (in Britain)  nothing better to do than snoop on innocent citizens' and grab up their phone logs, email lists, and now Youtube webcam images? According to  documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a sinister program called "Optic Nerve" began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year. "Optic Nerve" implemented by Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

Got a webcam operating? Then HEY! Maybe you are a terrorist! After all, making porno images now likely counts as "domestic terror" and make no mistake they are all being stored.  According to The Guardian which reported the latest outrage by the spooks:

"GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally."

The  Guardian added that:

"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".

According to The Guardian again:

"GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans' images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The documents also chronicle GCHQ's sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place."

The Guardian goes on to note that  Optic Nerve is "eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's 1984", and 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."

We also learn 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.

Another document likened the program's "bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events" to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.

It noted:

"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. The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright."

Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ's huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA's XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo's webcam traffic.

Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because "Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets".

Another aspect that ought to get U.S. citizens' attention is that unlike the NSA, GCHQ is not required by UK law to "minimize", or remove, domestic citizens' information from its databases. However, additional legal authorizations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.  There are no such legal safeguards for searches on people believed to be in the US or the other allied "Five Eyes" nations – Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

In other words, all the 'Five Eyes' nations are basically in a proto-fascist panoptycon with the spooks monitoring their moves 24/7.

The spooks are also evidently alarmed at the amount of nudity in these images. Quoting one GCHQ source in The Guardian:

"Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. 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."

See that, you "porno terrorists"?

The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity".

A question that occurs is, if it is so "undesirable" why are the Spooks so entranced by it and grabbing 1.8 million images?

Be warned in advance, peoples!  The Spooks are everywhere and like "Big Brother" from 1984 they are watching you!

Where is  Emmanuel Goldstein when we need him?

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