Worried about terrorists and criminals using the fantasy worlds of online games to communicate, intelligence agencies have been operating and snooping in games like World of Warcraft and Second Life.
The New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica jointly reported on Monday that British and American spies have been “conducting surveillance and scooping up data” in the games played online by millions of people, including on Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden show that spies have created characters — among them elves, gnomes, and supermodels — to try to recruit informers.
According to the article, intelligence agencies have for years been concerned about potential terrorist activity on online games. One 2008 NSA document warned that online games could become a “target-rich communication network.” But the documents do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the online work, and “former American intelligence officials, current and former gaming company employees and outside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.”