New documents have been released this week about a data collection scheme by the British agency GCHQ – working closely together with U.S.’s NSA, named “Optic Nerve”. It fetches images from webcams users used in Yahoo chats.
For more information see here.
This was a fishing operation – and still is. It didn’t matter whether the users were even intelligence targets.
One subject of discussion in the papers is the high amount of sexually explicit pictures and how to protect viewers who are sensitive to this material.
Mind you, they are taking about viewers within GCHQ, the analysts evaluating this material.
Isn’t that nice that GCHQ addresses sensitivity issues.
But we wanted to know more and dug a little bit deeper. We all know that sexual predators go online to look for victims, which is really a problem especially when the victims are under-age.
So maybe something good comes out of the dragnet surveillance of NSA and GCHQ. We’re always looking for anything that we can actually appreciate what they are doing. [Ed Snowden, of course, revealed problematic programs and practices, not necessarily things that make sense and work well – and which really should continue to remain secret.]
We asked, how many sexual predators they have discovered and actually turned over to the justice system.
The services, however, are tight lipped about it, One problem though was, they say, that many of the data/pictures come from anonymous user IDs, “unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens”.
Now we find that hard to believe.
One of the efforts was to refine the face recognition system, e.g. to detect the “amount of flesh” in a given picture to detect nudity.
Face recognition techniques are generally useful to recognize other objects as well, especially related to the human body. One of the variants they tinkered with, so the word goes, is to apply this to recognize features of a body part unique to males, commonly known as junk. Many sexual predators show their junk to their victims, so it actually makes a lot of sense to identify people not only by their faces but also by their junk. It is for males only, but it is as good as a face recognition, no joke.
There is no public acknowledgement of this activity from GCHQ or NSA, of course, But sources tell us that the junk recognition software identified a user who used the name “Carlos Danger”.
It turned out to be Anthony Weiner, who ran as candidate for mayor of New York City last year. He withdrew from the race when it was revealed he sent picture of his junk under the alias Carlos Danger to some women – after resigning from Congress for a similar affair a few years earlier.
Now we know how the connection was made from Carlos Danger to Anthony Weiner.