Your Naked Webcam Images May Be Stored By NSA’s British Partner

GCHQ documents say between 3-11 percent of Yahoo webcam chats contain ‘undesirable’ nudity.

It's unclear if British intelligence agency GCHQ is sharing its webcam image trove with the NSA.

It's unclear if British intelligence agency GCHQ is sharing its webcam image trove with the National Security Agency.

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In its latest bombshell revelation based on documents from exiled whistle-blower Edward Snowden, The Guardian reports the British Government Communications Headquarters has collected millions of images from Yahoo’s webcam service, many of them pornographic.

The U.K. spy agency, which works closely with the U.S. National Security Agency, determined that between 3 and 11 percent of images captured by its global webcam dragnet displayed “undesirable nudity,” according to one excerpted document. 

“It would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” the document said.

GCHQ’s webcam vacuum, code named Optic Nerve, began in 2008 and was still active in 2012, the paper reports. The bulk collection program reportedly snags one still image every five minutes from webcam chats.

[READ: Congressmen Demand End to 'Black Budget' Secrecy]

It’s unclear how many Yahoo users whose photos were taken and stored by GCHQ live in the United States. During a six-month period in 2008, the Guardian reports, 1.8 million Yahoo accounts worldwide were affected. There are no laws preventing the agency from collecting such images of Americans.

Among the intended uses of the program is compiling a facial recognition database and tracking intelligence targets.

Pornography filters implemented to screen out racy images are reportedly imperfect. One system intended to weed out nude photos – based on the amount of flesh shown – mistakenly flagged many pictures of people’s faces.

GCHQ partners with the NSA on a variety of intelligence-gathering programs. It’s unclear if any of the photos – explicit or otherwise – were shared with American intelligence agents, but the Guardian reports “[a] previously revealed NSA metadata repository, code-named Marina, has what the documents describe as a protocol class for webcam information.”

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NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told the paper the U.S. spy agency “ does not ask” British counterparts to surveil Americans’ communications to skirt domestic surveillance restrictions.

In a statement, Yahoo said: “This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law.“

Snowden, formerly a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor assigned to work with the NSA, downloaded the documents before fleeing the U.S. last year. Snowden was granted temporary asylum by Russia in August 2013 after exposing in June the bulk collection of Americans' phone and Internet records by the NSA.