Greens: Are Kiwi webcam images safe?

New Zealanders need to know their images from private webcam videos have not been viewed by spies, the Green Party says.

Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed Britain's top spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), intercepted and stored millions of Yahoo users' webcam images between 2008 and 2010, the Guardian reported.

The webcam information was processed and fed into the search systems of the United States' National Security Agency.

The operation, named Optic Nerve, uncovered many sexually explicit images.

Yahoo has condemned the programme, and said it had no awareness of or involvement in the collection.

GCHQ said it refused to comment on intelligence matters, and all work was carried out in accordance with "a strict legal and policy framework".

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said today the New Zealand public had a right to know if they had been caught up in the surveillance.

New Zealand's spy agencies needed to assure New Zealanders they had not been accessing the information collected by GCHQ, or undertaken similar operations of their own.

"The public has every right to be able to use something as simple as a webcam without the fear that their privacy is being trampled on by spy agencies around the world," Norman said.

"Once again we're seeing how wide-reaching the global surveillance state has become and how easily the public's right to privacy can be disregarded."

Stuff