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The idea behind it was to (supposedly) test facial recognition systems that could identify terrorists and thereby warn of future attacks or plans.

Instead what happened, was GCHQ collected millions of images of Yahoo customers, many of them – as you might expect – involved nudity, as Optic Nerve made no differentiation between someone discussing bomb making and those quite clearly have cam sex with one another.

However, it eventually also permitted the looking at images of those with “similar Yahoo identifiers” to terrorist suspects and with those that looked similar.

So if your username or face was anything like a terrorists, you may have ended up on the GCHQ radar.

The Guardian said that in one six-month period in 2008, GCHQ intercepted the video communications of 1.8 million users, but it’s possible that the program, which the Guardian says was still active in 2012, has either grown or shrunk in scope since then.

The intelligence agency was able to do this, thanks to a special piece of software known as Optic Nerve, which would grab an image from active Yahoo webcam chats every five minutes.

It did this on a huge scale too, with one six month period in 2008, netting images of over 1.8 million Yahoo customers.

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