We believe that we are living in a completely private world. That private video chat sessions over webcam remain between us and the other party involved. We couldn’t be more wrong. Our privacy is compromised on a daily basis, most of the time by hackers. Hackers can access our webcams and even control our computers from a distance, which ultimately allows them to peak into our private lives. However, sometimes government employees compromise our privacy.
From 2008 to 2012, the British GCHQ was in charge of a secret program called “Optic Nerve”. What this program did was peak into the private lives of millions of people all over the world. The goal of this operation was to create a high-tech face recognition software, which would later be used to facilitate manhunts. So far it seems pretty normal and it actually seems like a great plan. However, things get messy when you realize that the staff behind Optic Nerve captured millions of people in private webcam sessions.
The program was supposed to capture images of people (specifically face) while they were at ease. When they thought nobody was looking (or nobody other than their webcam chat partner). Surprise, surprise, most of the webcam captures were of kinky nature with naked individuals and people having long distance sex.
Millions of private images
The operation ran for four years, but in just a 6 month period during 2008, Optic Nerve gathered of 1.8 million images of Yahoo users. They mentioned that they were surprised to see that many of those captures were of naked people or couples having sex on cam. It seems kind of odd that government spies would find this surprising, since webcams are used for two major purposes; connecting with family members and having sex from a distance.
Although the GCHQ followed basic guidelines such as only capturing one screenshot images of each webcam every 5 minutes, it still remains immoral to peek into the private lives of millions of people. The Optic Nerve operatives were told to only analyze the metadata of each photo rather than actually looking at the images, but we highly doubt that Optic Nerve spies resisted looking at these naughty screen captures.
Where did the images go?
No straight answer was given when asked where these images have gone. We like to believe that the GCHQ destroyed all of these private images once the Optic Nerve program ended in 2012, but then again, nothing is certain. With millions of screen captures taken over a course of a 4-year period, it’s hard to believe that no images were leaked.
Hackers compromise our privacy all the time, but when it’s our very own governments hacking into our private lives, should we start taking action? No resistance or opposition has ever been displayed against such programs because we’re told it’s for a greater good, but should we stand up for our privacy? Do we really want government spies checking out our girlfriends while they’re taking baths or looking at our boyfriends while they’re sleeping in the nude?