British GCHQ Spies Have Been Watching Your Sexy Webcam Calls

By Adam Clark Estes and Gerald Lynch on at

It has today been revealed that British intelligence unit GCHQ ran a program codenamed "Optic Nerve" from 2008 to 2010 that involved capturing webcam images from internet users. And yep, as you'd imagine, that included a lot of sexy time.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the surveillance agency captured images from over 1.8 million Yahoo users during one six-month period in 2008. According to The Guardian, that cache included "substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications." Oh, and the US's NSA helped.

Apparently, the aim of the program was to gather intel on terrorism suspects who remained anonymous online and used multiple aliases. If it makes you feel any better, the spies didn't capture entire webcam sessions. They saved one image every five minutes "partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers," says The Guardian.

And what did they do with those naked photos? Well, GCHQ didn't really know what to do with all the sexually explicit material which, one document shows, amounted to as much as 11 per cent of the Yahoo webcam imagery. The agency did limit its analysts ability to sort through the images by restricting searches to metadata only.

In response to the Guardian's report, Yahoo stated that:

We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity. 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.

Somewhat humorously, the system had a tendency to tag users private parts as faces and vice-versa, as its recognition process relied heavily on being able to identify skin tones. As if the privacy concerns weren't enough, imagine the insult of having your cock mistaken for your face? [Guardian]

Image Credit: Young naked man watching pornography in his kitchen via Shutterstock.com