Yahoo Condemns Webcam Image Collection By British Spy Agency

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Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) strongly condemned the British spy agency GCHQ’s efforts to intercept webcam images of million of Yahoo users since 2008. And the American spy agency NSA was GCHQ’s accomplice. When contacted by San Francisco Chronicle, the technology company said that it was not aware of the spying activity. Yahoo said that the latest revelations take the user privacy violations to a whole new level.

Yahoo says the spying activity completely unacceptable

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) said that it will not condone the spying activity, which is completely unacceptable. The Sunnyvale, California-based company will call on international governments to reform the surveillance law to comply with the principles outlined in December 2013. Yahoo plans to expand data encryption to all its services.

The Guardian, which reviewed documents obtained by Edward Snowden, said that the British agency’s program, code named Optic Nerve, began in 2008 and was still active in 2012. At one point in 2008, GCHQ collected webcam images of more than 1.8 million Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) users in just six-month period. Optic Nerve was aimed at identifying the spying agency’s targets with the help of automatic facial recognition techniques. There is no restriction under the British law to prevent UK agencies to access the images of Americans. A large part of the webcam images stored by the spy agency contained “undesirable nudity.”

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Millions of innocent Yahoo users affected

According to the report, Optic Nerve saved one webcam image of Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) users every five minutes. The legislation about human rights didn’t allow the British agency to record the entire webcam chat. And GCHQ didn’t want to overload its servers with millions of video chats. The spying agency’s analysts could easily look at the images of those Yahoo users whose usernames were similar to the surveillance targets. As a result, the program affected millions of innocent people.

GCHQ and NSA have been sharing intelligence data for several decades under the UKUSA agreement. Canadian, Australian and New Zealander spying agencies also collaborate with them under the “Five Eyes” alliance.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) shares plunged 0.57% to $38.25 in pre-market trading Friday.