The Washington Post's latest article on the FBI reveals the extent that webcam privacy has been eroded. In the pursuit of a suspect known simply as "Mo," the FBI used malware to their own advantage. From the article:
The most powerful FBI surveillance software can covertly download files, photographs and stored e-mails, or even gather real-time images by activating cameras connected to computers, say court documents and people familiar with this technology.
...The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.
We don't have a problem with the FBI using the tools at their disposal to catch criminals - but some courts, including one in Texas, have found the practice to potentially be in violation of the Fourth Amendment. And if the FBI can develop this kind of software, it's not a stretch to think that unscrupulous hackers could develop the same thing.
Read the entire article at The Washington Post