Since his notorious intelligence leak back in June of 2013, Edward Snowden has become a household name. Surrounded by controversy, many are uncertain of the character of the man who exposed classified NSA documents to the press. Some will call him a traitor, while others sing his praises. With little agreement over whether to condemn or exonerate him, the American public can agree on one thing: we don’t want our private information monitored by the government.
People want privacy (on the internet and in mobile communications), but in a post-9/11 world, it seems unlikely that true privacy will ever exist again. The focus of the NSA’s surveillance program lies mostly in telecommunications, as well as transactions conducted over the internet (conversations, social media posts, monetary transactions, etc.). However, the program goes a little further than that.
According to the Guardian, there may be a chance that the government has seen you…naked. GCHQ, Britain’s surveillance agency, sat in on the chats of more than 1.8 million Yahoo users around the world (during a 6 month period), and apparently made the groundbreaking discovery that a good portion of the population uses webcams for sexual purposes.
“It would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” one Optic Nerve document detailed. “Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows for more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting.”
Welcome to the Internet, GCHQ, glad to have you with us. Their program, codenamed Optic Nerve, has been operational since 2008, which means the aforementioned 1.8 million represents a small portion of the users that GCHQ has spied on over the past six years. Mind you, the agency cast a fairly wide net in an effort to gather information and ask questions later (a common policy for governments today). Usually, such pre-emptive measures are used to ensure national security and stem terrorist threats to begin with, but a majority of the users that GCHQ spied upon were not suspected of wrongdoing.
This violation of privacy goes far beyond monitoring phone calls and invading your Amazon account (we can live with the government knowing what our Prime history looks like). Seeing us naked though, without asking, is just plain impolite. So, government, if you just want to see us in the buff just ask (you never know who might respond), and in the meantime please stay out of our webcam conversations.