Monday, 9 December 2013

NSA Playing Video Games to Collect Intelligence

Earlier today The Guardian reported on another load of classified NSA documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden that show how NSA agents are infiltrating the virtual realm of World of Warcraft, Second Life and so on to obtain real life intelligence. Now, for some this might not come as a surprise and I admit after thinking about the dimensions of online gaming it became clear that it must pose an obvious target for NSA spying operations.

According to Snowden’s documents the NSA has been deploying their agents into digital worlds since 2007 supposedly building “mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network” essentially collecting information about millions of users. The game industry has grown into a multi-million dollar business utilized by individuals all around the world to build their own imaginary characters, which inhabit virtual worlds for all kinds of reason- fighting, killing, saving the world etc.; and just like the characters, World of Warcraft and Second Life are surreal and imaginary environments disconnected from real life situations. The NSA, however, being not only one of the largest and most influential intelligence agencies but also one of the most paranoid suspected that “among these clans of elves and goblins, terrorists were lurking”.

I get it, the amounts of people spending their time with GVEs (games and virtual environments) and the amount of communication going on there – I mean imagine all that information! I am sure the NSA felt an urgent, almost itching need to creep into that online territory under the pretence of national security.

Again, what does this mean for us? Well, now not even your imaginary avatar is protected from the eavesdropping activities of the NSA who obviously strives at exploiting every little corner of the online sphere.

What are you gonna do about it? I am not a gamer or anything but I think this latest disclosure of Snowden’s documents indicates again that everything, absolutely everything, is within reach of the NSA.  And I cannot help thinking about dropping my online profiles essentially disappearing without leaving the slightest digital footprint in order to be myself without someone constantly watching me.

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