The revelations of the NSA’s surveillance efforts just don’t stop, and today there was another doozy. A New York Times report reveals that the American government agency, in tandem with the British Government Communications Headquarters, actually went so far as to infiltrate various online gaming networks—with Second Life, Xbox LLIVE, and World of Warcraft getting specific mentions—in an effort to sniff out potential threats to world security. Apparently the agencies considered the vast gaming networks, with their abilities to chat and send private messages and so forth, a potential gathering and recruitment avenue for terrorists and other would-be bad guys.
But the best part: they didn’t find anything or anyone. Moreover, the post says that there were “so many CIA, FBI and Pentagon spies […] hunting around in Second Life […] that a ‘deconfliction’ group was needed to avoid collisions.” Essentially, they had to make sure that they weren’t fake-terrorist recruiting each other. If I wrote this in a screenplay and tried to sell it, the people making the movies would say it was too stupid a scenario to be believable.
For its part, World of Warcraft game-maker Blizzard said it didn’t know anything about what had been going on regarding surveillance and attempts at finding terrorists through its games. Said a spokesperson:
“We are unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission.”
The question that remains, of course, is what the end result of all that surveillance is now. What’s going to be done with all of that data? And are the NSA and GCH going to continue their efforts to monitor gamers? I mean—it stands to reason that they’ll keep on keeping on, but perhaps with less intensity.
In the end, don’t talk about being a terrorist online. I mean, unless you’re playing some first person shooter where you’re literally pretending to be some crazy terrorist. In that case, go bananas.