A covert program code-named Optic Nerve apparently used computer Webcams to watch online users.
The Guardian newspaper based all this on documents provided by former NSA employee Edward Snowden. HARI SREENIVASAN: The report details how a British spy agency collected images from Yahoo! The images and associated metadata were stored and subject to search using experimental facial recognition software.
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Joining me to walk us through what they discovered is Guardian reporter Spencer Ackerman. SPENCER ACKERMAN, The Guardian: So what happened was, is, as part of its very broad abilities to collect data in transit across the Internet, GCHQ collected a lot of information from users of this specific Webcam service based out of Yahoo Messenger. We didn’t get direct answers as to how many Americans, if any, have been collected. HARI SREENIVASAN: So what did they do with all these pictures? SPENCER ACKERMAN: The facial recognition element is fascinating, because it’s an emerging technology that even the documents can see just really isn’t precisely mature yet.
And from there, it went into databases that analysts could use to comb through both the imagery and the associated data around where those images came from to both find targets that it already had in its intelligence-gathering purposes and figure out new targets. Should they be conditioned that there are images of them stored either at the NSA or GCHQ now? But the rules and the laws that GCHQ is under on the search end, when analysts can look through this database, distinguish merely between people believed to be in the U. The idea would be, from an intelligence perspective, if you had a partial identifier, maybe an e-mail address or part of a screen name of an intelligence target, but didn’t really have much more than that, potentially, if you swept up all of this Yahoo!