Being in the military I have watched, read and listened to a great deal regarding NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. I knew by the nature of his leaks that the gaming industry was never going to be safe from the prying eyes of the CIA, MI5 and anyone else who wanted to see what we all get up to.
This swiftly brings me onto the Government Communication Headquarters or as most know it, GCHQ. Based in Cheltenham you can’t miss it, it is quite simply a giant doughnut. I even had the chance to fly over it, just imagined it with sprinkles and a custard filling, but alas I digress from the subject.
For those who don’t know, GCHQ is something of a British NSA equivalent. All of our top agents, sneaky beakies and most of our intelligence at one point will run by the doughnut. It used to be where all the codebreakers were housed during WWII (in Bletchley Park) and naturally they are still code breaking today. Though the stream of information that is available to them is a lot more varied and a lot more vast too.
Sadly for me recent leaks from Snowden stating GCHQ was eavesdropping on us all really came as no surprise. These guys have unlimited resources and you’d have to be naive to think that they weren’t listening for the sake of our safety. Personally I don’t care about that prospect but many do.
Well, Friday Mr Snowden has shown us that GCHQ have been hacking into Xbox Kinect’s to look at Yahoo imagery. What’s more they have also looked at using the Kinect for other things if they haven’t already managed it.
The program is called Optic Nerve and thus far they have managed to get into over 1.8 million chat users’ accounts and documented what they found. Yahoo are naturally a little annoyed.
It has already been revealed that World of Warcraft and Xbox LIVE have been utilised by GCHQ to gather intelligence so the Kinect no doubt seemed like a natural progression for them.
All of this is also a massive reason why the Xbox One having the Kinect connected indefinitely became such an issue. Imagine the intelligence that GCHQ and it’s allies could collect with a constant connection to the Kinect.
Microsoft have already spoken about Optic Nerve saying, “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.”
Ultimately if you didn’t think someone was listening and documenting what you buy, play and say through your Xbox, Playstation or Wii then all of this may come as quite the surprise. Though when you take a step back and look at the big picture, did you not already know this was happening in some capacity? I did.