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Security Focus: NSA Spying On Online Gamers

Recently released documents indicate that the NSA created and operated counter-terrorism teams inside online games like World of Warcraft.


In a story that should surprise no one, we learn that once again the NSA are spying on people in the most unlikely of locations: World of Warcraft. Since the release of the first NSA spying allegations, a virtual rain of new spying techniques, targets, and technologies has been found. Each week a new allegation or report is released and with it the claims become even more far-fetched.

Spying On Basements

As far back as 2008, the NSA considered the online communities of World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Xbox Live as fertile grounds for intelligence gathering activities. According to a once classified document, these online communities were ripe for espionage, location tracking, ID tracking, and other counter-terrorist activities. The NSA even used these same online communities as recruitment centers for potential informants.

Should We Be Surprised Anymore?

Each week there is a new revelation that expands the crazy factor of NSA spying fallout. First, it was dishwashers and now it is online games. Should it even surprise us anymore? If I told you that the NSA had found a way to use the drywall in your house to spy on you, would that seem all too far-fetched? Sadly, the answer is probably no for many Americans.

Does Spying On Online Games Matter?

If you play an online game, your in-game conversations are recorded and monitored. Don't look surprised. Just about every game that takes its legal responsibilities seriously will monitor all chat channels for people violating ToS or being general miscreants. For the most part, the chats are stored and only accessed in the case of a request or complaint.

The question becomes how complicit are the online games? Are they handing out your chat logs at the drop of a hat or do they require sealed subpoenas from congress before they give up the data?

Did the Spying Work?

According to the released documents, the only admitted result from spying on online gaming communities was the discovery of a credit card fraud ring in London that was not terror-related. Beyond that single result, there have been no accredited terror-related discoveries from the extensive online gaming community spying.

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