Reports reveal that a UK spy agency has collected millions of Yahoo webcam images, these images also including sexually explicit pictures, which were saved to the database of the agency.
The news reported by the Guardian reveals that these documents were collected between 2008 and 2010. In just 6 months in 2008, the agency collected over 1.8 million sexually explicit communications on Yahoo accounts, from all over the world.
Of course, users of Yahoo who shared these sexually video conversations thought that they were private, although in fact, everything was collected by this agency.
The British agency who violated the privacy of users is known as GCHQ. It has been reported that to be able to intercept all these communications, GCHQ actually got help from the U.S. National Security Agency.
Yahoo claimed that they had nothing to do with this, saying that they had no previous knowledge about this interception. Moreover, the company went to accuse the agency of a new level of violation of users’ privacy.
Yahoo said that they actually learned about this situation such as anyone else, from the Guardian.
“We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity. This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable,” a spokesperson for the company claimed. “We strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance laws consistent with the principles we outlined in December,” the statement added.
On the other hand, GCHQ said that they actually did nothing wrong and all their activities were necessary and under the terms of the law. In the collected webcam images there are found images from Yahoo users from all over the world.
The program ended in 2012, the Guardian claims, although the agency continued to investigate the accounts that had similar names to those of investigative targets.
“Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” a document of GCHQ said.
The agency only saved pictures at every 5 minutes to avoid the overload of servers, as well as to remain under legal restrictions. The purpose of this investigation was to monitor targets and to trace new targets using an advanced software system.
The whole incident caused outrage all over the world. It is unclear how much data was collected from US citizens and if it was shared with American officials. It also is unclear if only Yahoo was affected or the agency also collected data from similar services such as Google Hangouts or Microsoft’s Skype.