Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has quietly intercepted and stored millions of webcam chats and videos from Yahoo, according to secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Operation “Optic Nerve,” which operated from 2008 and was shown to still be active in 2012, reportedly collected webcam footage in bulk of millions of individuals–including scandalous, sexually illicit material–regardless of whether they were intelligence targets or not. According to the Guardian:
Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected”–intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.
In other words, your selfies and long-distance video chats are out there. These images were then reportedly used to test secret facial algorithm technology to suss out potential new terror suspects. Now would be as good a time as any for a pair of anti-facial recognition goggles.