Much has been said and written about the NSA’s electronic spying operations. Since the first leaks last year Edward Snowden, the man behind it all, has continued to leak highly classified documents shedding light on the top secret programs. The latest from Snowden reveals that millions of faces are being collected from web images by the agency which it intends to use for facial recognition. Some of the programs previously seen dealt only with metadata, this is a completely different ballgame.
According to The New York Times, which obtained the documents from Snowden, NSA is exploiting images included in text messages, emails, videoconferences, social media and other communications. Documents reveal that “millions of images per day” are intercepted which include about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images.”
The exact scope of this program is not known so its not easy to say how many people around the world have had their images captured and entered into a huge database, moreover, its not know how many Americans have been caught up in this as well. However since images are considered as a form of communication content by the agency it would have to get a court approval to collect images of Americans through its programs, like it would approval to read emails or listen in on their phone calls.
A spokeswoman for the NSA said that the agency does not have access to photographs in state databases or passport photos of Americans, but declined to comment if it has access to State Department’s database of foreign visa applicants’ photos.