Xbox 360’s Kinect censor was identified by British spy agency GCHQ as a means of possible surveillance, according to leaked papers published as part of The Guardian’s ongoing expose into digital privacy.
It follows the revelation that both the NSA and GCHQ formulated plans to spy on alleged terrorist activity being orchestrated within MMOs, including World of Warcraft.
Now; The Guardian has released details of a surveillance program codenamed ‘Optic Nerve’ that was used by the GCHQ and NSA to capture Yahoo chat webcam images from users not under any suspicion at the time. During an unspecified six-month period in 2008, the British agency is said to have collected images and ‘sexually explicit’ chat logs from some 1.8 million Yahoo users.
Leaked documents show that the GCHQ expressed interest in the Xbox 360’s Kinect camera, and considered using it in its surveillance program, due to it creating “fairly normal webcam traffic.” The papers also show that both the UK firm and NSA were researching the possibility of accurate facial recognition tools and eye detection cameras. One document said, “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report.”
MCV asked Microsoft to respond to the leak. They replied, “Microsoft has never heard of this program. However, we’re concerned about any reports of governments surreptitiously collecting private customer data. That’s why in December we initiated a broad effort to expand encryption across our services and are advocating for legal reforms.”
Speaking with the Guardian a GCHQ spokesperson emphasised the alleged legality of its work. “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matter,” they began. “Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.
“All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”
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