The report is based on leaked documents provided by American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor.
The spy agency collected webcam imagery from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts, and the data was collected through a GCHQ program called Optic Nerve, which was available to NSA analysts through routine information sharing, contained a significant amount of sexual content.
“Unfortunately… it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” it read.
“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.”
Yahoo has denied prior knowledge of the alleged program and expressed outrage at the reported surveillance.
“We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity,” Yahoo said in a statement. “We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”
GCHQ analysts were able to search the metadata, such as location and length of webcam chat, and they could view the actual images where the username was similar to a surveillance target.