The National Security Agency (NSA) apparently spied on user activity on online games such as World of Warcraft.
According to new details publisuhed by whistle blower Edward Snowden, the NSA monitored activity in order to carry out their surveillance, to track potential threat actors and to try and recruit informants. According to Sky News, the NSA also spied on Microsoft’s popular X-Box Live and apparently so many agents were inside Second Life that a “deconfliction” group was set up to ensure agents were not accidentally spying on one another.
The New York Times reported that the agency feared that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks. An NSA document from 2008 warned that online games might seem innocuous, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.”
however the activity was not completely unknown to users, as one World of Warcraft discussion thread asked whether the NSA may be reading game chat logs. “If they ever read these forums, they would realise they were wasting” their time,” wrote one user.
One NSA document said that the World of Warcraft monitoring “continues to uncover potential Sigint value by identifying accounts, characters and guilds related to Islamic extremist groups, nuclear proliferation and arms dealing”.
Microsoft, Second Life and the NSA declined to comment, while a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment, which makes World of Warcraft, said that neither the NSA or GCHQ had gotten permission to gather intelligence in its game.
“We are unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission,” said the spokesperson.