A recently leaked report indicates that the National Security Agency (NSA), in conjunction with intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom, have been spending their precious time and your precious tax dollars spying on people who play popular games like World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live service (which caters to a myriad of online games).
The findings are based on secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the UK newspaper The Guardian. The NSA declined to comment on the leaked report, and would not confirm or deny such activity. The GCHQ, a U.K. counterpart to the NSA, released the following statement:
“All GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee.”
These government agencies believe that online gaming is a target rich medium in which terrorists can hide their communications and identities. Clearly they’ve never had to endure that chats that routinely plague most MMORPGs and online games. Maybe gaming addition is now considered terrorism and falls under the NSA’s jurisdiction. There’s not indication that the agencies had any monitoring capability beyond brute force monitoring of chat and game play. The companies involved have denied being involved, as well as denying any capability beyond what you and I have as regular players. Microsoft has since beefed up its Xbox Live security and encryption. Apparently there’s so much monitoring going on that a “deconfliction” protocol had to be created to keep agents from accidentally spying on one another.
I suppose it’s theoretically possible that terrorists might use chat channels clogged with absolute garbage and flame wars to hide their discussions, but I find it inconceivable that intelligence agencies have been able to find anything useful to combat terrorism in online gaming chats. But it’s an easy target given the stereotype dictates that video games breeds violence, and the main stream media loves to falsely and hysterically position them as “murder simulators.”
Clearly, why wouldn’t terrorists hang out in them?!