The NSA hacked Yahoo webcams along with the British agency GCHQ, and the GCHQ kept the images it found. The two government agencies were working together to find and collect millions of pictures from webcams. The program, named Optic Nerve, collected information on millions of innocent people who were not suspected of terrorism or other wrongdoing.
The hacking was discovered thanks to Edward Snowden, according to the Guardian. The Optic Nerve program may not have ended, and some experts believe it is still in progress. Many of the pictures collected by the program were inappropriate and involved sex sessions, but innocent images were also recorded. Yahoo called this an invasion of privacy and promised to look into the breach.
The Yahoo webcam chat users were not aware that a secret program was intercepting their talks and taking periodic pictures. They had no way to protect themselves or even detect that Optic Nerve was gathering their information. Yahoo’s response revealed it also had no idea that government agencies had hacked its webcams and were storing data from them.
The possibility of both U.S. and U.K. citizens being affected by Optic Nerve exists. Since millions of images have been collected, it is possible people in both countries were included. Secret paperwork revealed that from 2008 to 2012 the program was definitely active, but there was no guarantee it ended in 2012.
The NSA played an important part in Optic Nerve because its systems were used by the GCHQ to process things. The agencies insist they were complying with the law, and Yahoo webcam chat users should not expect any apologies soon. Nevertheless, Yahoo has shown it is furious over the hacking and is demanding answers. This is not the first time that Yahoo has come up against a government agency using its data, and it even filed a lawsuit since the company caught the NSA taking email lists.
The issue of privacy remains at the forefront with the latest revelation of government agencies collecting information on citizens and noncitizens. In addition to the usual concerns about data storage, there are questions about how the data will be used against people. Since filtering out vast quantities of images is not always feasible, the agencies have simply kept pictures of innocent people in the databases with little concern for their privacy. The bulk collection also raises questions about the safety of the data because even government agencies are not immune from hacking.