There are people trying to make money on the data leak scare, introducing new gadgets, but it doesn’t stop GCHQ or the NSA intercepting the data on its way through the telecommunications network, investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT.
On Feb. 27, The Guardian published new leaks from Edward Snowden claiming that the UK's GCHQ, with the assistance of the NSA, routinely intercepted and stored webcam images in secret by means of the specially created “Optic Nerve” program. According to Snowden’s revelations, 1.8 million Yahoo users had their webcam images collected by the agency in the space of six months after “Optic Nerve” was first rolled out.
RT: Clearly they got more than they bargained for with all those revealing images, but surely the purpose of spying is intelligence gathering, and that's essentially what they're doing, for counterterrorism purposes. So why is there such a backlash over this?
Tony Gosling: This has got nothing to do with counterterrorism, has it? Because this is just yet another great data troll and there are all sorts of reasons why it is illegal. Apparently this sort of thing has to be sanctioned by the Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary at the highest levels, and in the US it has to be sanctioned through the secret FISA court, but there are very good reasons why the people that have committed this actually should be or are criminals. I’m talking about those who authorized it at government level, in GCHQ and the individual operators that have been collecting this data. I mean all of these things we’ve heard about spyware being put on viruses, put on our computers, our computers being stopped on the way to our homes to have this spyware, this kind of thing put on it, we also have denial of service attacks that is taking out websites of campaign groups and that sort of thing by GCHQ and by the NSA. But this is actually the most creepy so far. Using webcams, it’s like an intruder into your living room and it’s not just happening to people who counter terrorism, there is everybody they are after here.
RT: Why Yahoo? Is there any suggestion why Yahoo collaborated?
TG: Yahoo have come out and said they are extremely annoyed about this. The Guardian reports they are fevered in their denial of this kind of things because of course this is massively damaging to Yahoo. And the privacy and the trust between the Yahoo’s users and the organization. I think we will find they have already been fighting in some ways, these Internet companies, with the NSA and GCHQ in the courts. But this will make it even more important to Yahoo to be able to defend their reputation by stopping this kind of thing going on. But a lot of people are saying why it does matter, if you have done nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide. But I’ll tell why it matters. That’s because these people should be going to get a warrant to stop these mass data trolls. That’s about time that we learn from our history and make sure that these laws to stop this mass data trolls are enforced.
RT: If Edward Snowden can leak highly secure information, then how easily could these very personal images get in to the wrong hands? How safe is all this information?
TG: Generally most of the organizations like Yahoo do put a lot of effort into making sure that their data is secured while traveling across the Internet. Unfortunately, what’s happening is that there are people who are trying to make money on this data scare, for example Bayen has just introduced its black phones which do encrypt the data on the phone itself but it doesn’t stop someone like GCHQ or the NSA intercepting the data on its way through the telecommunications network. And so really what happens is that criminals are a way ahead of the legislation both in Britain and in the USA.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.