GCHQ-NSA-Yahoo: Guardian report suggests British spy agency collected millions of images grabbed from Yahoo webcasts.

Britain's Spies Were Surprised to Discover Just How Much the World Loves Naked Webchatting

Britain's Spies Were Surprised to Discover Just How Much the World Loves Naked Webchatting

The Slatest
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Feb. 27 2014 11:23 AM

Britain's Spies Were Surprised to Discover Just How Much the World Loves Naked Webchatting

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The Guardian, now Glenn Greenwald-less, is out with its latest government surveillance scoop: The big takeaway of this one is that British surveillance agency GCHQ—with an assist from the National Security Agency—interceptd and stored digital snapshots of millions of people grabbed from Yahoo webcasts between 2008 and 2010, many of whom were not intelligence targets. The entire story is worth a read, and you can check it out here. But just in case you need a little more motivation, here's the snippet that will get your attention:

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows 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 pornography."
The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity". Discussing efforts to make the interface "safer to use", it noted that current "naïve" pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people's faces as pornography.
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According to the report, the agency got so tired of sorting through the world's crotch shots that it eventually tweaked its collection system to ignore those webcasts in which its computers could not detect any faces on screen. More over at the Guardian.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.