February 27, 2014
The latest revelation concerning mass government spying confirms an issue that Infowars has been covering for close to a decade. British and American governments are spying on people in their own homes via web cams, laptop microphones and devices such as the X-box.
The London Guardian has the details in a report based on information leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The British surveillance agency GCHQ, with help from the NSA, actively spied on nearly 2 million Yahoo users via webcams built into their computers. The documents show that the agency intercepted millions of images as part of a secret program codenamed OPTIC NERVE.
The report also states that Americans were almost certainly targeted as part of the bulk collection of data, and that there is no law to prevent such activity in Britain.
The documents show that images were collected from webcams at regular intervals, one image every five minutes, and were used by the spy agency to trial automated facial recognition programs.
The Guardian describes the process as “eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984.”
The documents dub the practice as “bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events”, and spies working at GCHQ compared it to a police database of mugshots. “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 papers read. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”
Essentially, the spy agency appear to have been building a huge digital database containing the faces of Yahoo users.
The documents advise employees at GCHQ on how to use the system, noting “[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target’s ID”.
In one presentation contained within the documents, more technologically advanced systems, such as iris recognition cameras, are discussed as potential surveillance tools. The paper even chillingly states “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report”.
The documents state that Yahoo users were specifically singled out because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets”.
The papers also note that a large quantity of the data collected contained nudity or sexually explicit imagery. The spy agency seemingly made no effort to prevent the collection of such images.
Yahoo described the practice as “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy,” and strenuously denied having any knowledge of the program.
Infowars first reported in 2006, EIGHT YEARS AGO, that innocent people were being spied on through their computers. We specifically described the practice as Minority Report style technology, as the GCHQ had done.
Of course, some quarters dismissed our reports as “conspiracy theories”, while worried internet users questioned whether the reports were accurate.
The GCHQ program was seemingly not limited to Yahoo user web cams either. Another presentation within the leaked internal papers discusses the capabilities of the Xbox 360′s Kinect camera, saying it generated “fairly normal webcam traffic” and that it was being evaluated as a potential surveillance tool.
We have also documented the potential use of Xbox for surveillance purposes, noting that Skype calls made on the devices can be intercepted. We have also warned that the ‘always on’ camera of the new Xbox One, which is so powerful it can see through clothing, is wide open to abuse by hackers and government agencies.
According to the leaked documents, the OPTIC NERVE program began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012. There is no indication that the program has been deactivated.
Security expert Bruce Schneier writes that this latest revelation highlights how there is no distinction between actively spying on a person and what he called “Eavesdropping by algorithm”, in other words, automated computer surveillance. The NSA and the Obama administration have attempted to argue that what they are doing cannot be called “spying” or even “collecting” data, because when the data is gathered, a person is not looking at it. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still uses this explanation to claim he never lied to Congress when he answered ‘no’ to the question “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
The fallout from the OPTIC NERVE program, the creation of facial recognition databases, and the fact that spooks provably looked at images of people, even NAKED images of people, highlights the fact, Schneier argues, that the “NSA’s definition of ‘collect’ makes no sense whatsoever”, and that our governments are indeed actively spying on us.