The Problem Isn’t That The NSA Saw You Nude, But Who They Saw You Nude With
When it was revealed that the GCHQ/NSA/FRA spying complex had been intercepting video chat, including nude video chats, there was an uproar along the lines of “the government is looking at me nude”. This is missing the bigger picture. The problem isn’t that the government spooks saw you nude in a sexual context – it’s who they saw you with.
One month ago, it was revealed that the governmental spy program optic nerve had been intercepting Yahoo video chats. This effectively meant that if you had used Yahoo for nude and/or sexual chats, the government agencies now has video of you doing so.
It’s not just one or two people, either. It’s several million people. And recorded nudity is not a maybe – the GCHQ noted in its own report that about 10% of the intercepted conversations contained, in their own words, “undesirable nudity”.
However, this recorded nudity – while an undescribable and unthinkable new violation of trust, privacy, and citizens in general – is not very usable in itself to the spooks. Frankly, if they have you nude on video, they can certainly enjoy it for themselves, but they can’t use it against you, for two reasons:
1) Most people are nude from time to time. It’s not exactly illegal. You didn’t choose what to look like in the nude. There’s no extortion value over an active choice here.
2) More importantly, it would backfire horribly if the spooks published nude images for extortion purposes. There’s no political advantage to be gained from doing so.
However, a nude chat is more than a nude image. It is a conversation. The politically extortionable material isn’t that you were nude, but in whose company you were nude. Even more so, who were nude in yours.
The fact that the NSA and its ilk is sitting on this kind of material in the US and UK practically means that they own every lawmaker in those countries who has ever had a chat online. (This is primarily because of the culture in those countries, I should point out. In France, Japan, and Italy, for example, if the Prime Minister didn’t have at least one partner on the side, his or her ability to run the country would be called into question.)
The political problem isn’t that the senator was caught nude on camera.
The political problem is who the senator was caught nude with. And that a highly contentious government agency, and they alone, are in possession of that information.
Meanwhile, the NSA gets yet another budget raise seemingly out of nowhere.
Can we please kill these criminal organizations already?