Keep up with the news by installing RT’s extension for . Never miss a story with this clean and simple app that delivers the latest headlines to you.


​‘NSA has just granted themselves another huge power’

Published time: June 02, 2014 13:51
National Security Agency (NSA) (AFP Photo)

Rather than asking the democratic government of the United States whether it is ok to track people via their facial characteristics in their web postings the NSA has decided to do it themselves, digital rights campaigner Jim Killock told RT.

Evidence leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals that the NSA collects millions of web images per day, to use in facial recognition programs.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, believes this is a huge violation of people’s privacy even though there are no clear precedents in this case, unlike the situation with texts and e-mails.

RT: Millions of people post their pictures online - which we can ALL see anyway if they're on social media - so what's wrong with law enforcement taking a look too?

Jim Killock: It's another huge power they have just granted themselves. Rather than asking the democratic government in the United States whether it is ok to track people via checking their facial characteristics on their web postings they have just decided that that is ok. What is particularly interesting about that is that there are no legal precedents; there is no legal framework for how people's personal images might be used. Unlike post and text and mail, where there have been clear precedents and there has been an understanding of what is meant to be private; people's photographs, the images and faces contained within them, are not subject to the same kind of legal rigor. So we do not know how that will come out legally, but obviously it is a huge violation of people's privacy to be able to track every individual around the country, wherever they might be, whatever parties and events they might be at, on the basis of the NSA being able to see who you are by examining your facial characteristic. It is obviously a huge step to take, so it should not just be happening.

RT: Criminal activity's rife on the free and open web - how much does it bother you that groups like the NSA are matching online fraud techniques, such as fake Facebook accounts and malicious software?

JK: What we have to be clear about here is that if you are being tracked by a private company that is meant to be happening with your knowledge and consent. For example, I publish things on the internet, I put up blog posts, I say things on RT or any other company, I do that in my own knowledge, and I therefore know that that might be noticed by people. But what the NSA is saying is forget the idea of consent, we are just going to do that, and that is completely unfair - it is unexpected and you do not know how this information will be used in the future. If criminal people do the same thing, that too is a huge violation of human rights and something that they are entitled to have stopped. But just because the NSA or any other government internal or external security agency can and wish to track people does not mean that they have a right. Particularly, not because they can claim things like national security. That is not a sufficient justification for gathering any amount of data they want in any way that they want.

RT: Every month there's a new headline about how far-reaching the NSA's powers are. Do you think these latest revelations make any difference?

JK: I think they do make a difference, in as much as it is another example, and a particularly intrusive example, we all find particularly upsetting because we do not know what is in those images. We know that the same is happening in the UK on an experimental basis - our GCHQ was gathering snapshots of people's video cameras and web chats in order to see whether they could see and check who people were. They were doing it on an experimental basis, and they found some very disturbing things about that, particularly, a large amount of nudity. Who knows what is going on with the NSA in the same program, in fact the same kind of problems may well be being encountered. In fact this is a kind of thing that people have some right to know about. Because this is more tangible I hope that people will have more notice.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Comments (14)


T.j. Thomas 04.06.2014 19:02

"So what's wrong with law enforcement taking a look too? ... It's another huge power they have just granted themselves. "

Well , yes and no. There are already preexisting broad definitions of how much (or little) of an expectation of privacy you have while in public. Which in many cases is indeed little. If you're posting pictures on pages with general public access, you give up your expectation of privacy. If they're using pictures that are locked one way or another, like Facebook's Friends Only, though, that's different.


maximus zeebra 03.06.2014 08:57

NSA surveillance the people, while terrorists and criminals use advanced(or simple) methods to not be discovered.


frank hermes 03.06.2014 08:18

Pierre Dumont 02.06.2014 14:21

Friends of mine have asked : aren't you afraid of Nsa ?
So, there you are ! People shut up, freedom of expression is threatened !
Cowards we mustn't be , we should flood the web wit zillions of mails saying openly what we think ! They'll have so much work, their system will explose & realse that they achieved the contrary !


i do, and i dont care if this idiots can read

View all comments (14)
Add comment

Authorization required for adding comments

Register or



Show password


or Register

Request a new password


or Register

To complete a registration check
your Email:


or Register

A password has been sent to your email address

Edit profile



New password

Retype new password

Current password



Follow us

Follow us