regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

  • Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States of America intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
  • Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
  • 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.
  • Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception and the company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy.”

So for all of you who were having sex online with a partner or by yourself,  your image is stored in the United Kingdom. The agency has struggled to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its inquisitive staff.

To see if you have been targeted while using Yahoo’s webcam services, please continue below.


The NSA declined to respond to specific queries about its access to the Optic Nerve system, the presence of US citizens’ data in such systems, or whether the NSA has similar bulk-collection programs.  However  the agency claimed it did not ask foreign partners such as GCHQ to collect intelligence the NSA could not legally collect itself.