NSA Now Spying on Gamers

Those Pandaren are pretty shifty looking.

Your tax dollars at work: NSA employees playing World of Warcraft because something something something TERRORISM!

ProPublica has a report on data collection and surveillance of online gaming groups at WoW and Second Life. (Wait, people are still playing Second Life? That’s just kind of … sad.)

The fear is that TERRORISTS!!1! might use the services to communicate secretly, so they’re keeping an eye on things:

The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • So many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions.
  • The documents do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the effort, and former American intelligence officials, current and former gaming company employees and outside experts said in interviews that they knew of little evidence that terrorist groups viewed the games as havens to communicate and plot operations.
  • There have been some benefits: GCHQ’s “network gaming exploitation team” had identified engineers, embassy drivers, scientists and other foreign intelligence operatives to be World of Warcraft players – potential targets for recruitment as agents.

Yep:  a big fat nothing. Guys, can we at least dial the rabid paranoia and demented behavior back to Cold War levels?

Read the whole thing, and ask yourself the same question I do every day: What the hell happened to my country?

The threat is real.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.