According to documentation provided by The Guardian, reports have been released that the NSA, CIA and other National and International spy organizations has been and are continuing to use gaming platforms as a spying hotbed. World of Warcraft, Second-Life and XBOX Live are only a few of the mentioned platforms.
Fearing that “terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks”, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
As seemingly innocuous online games might be, a 2008 top secret NSA document warned that they have the potential to be “target-rich networks” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight”. Another NSA document declared that virtual games “are an opportunity”.
Neither the documents, former American intelligence officials, outside experts, nor current and former gaming company employees have cited and counter-terrorism success from the effort and knew very little evidence that terrorist groups viewed the games as havens to communicate and plot operations.
The surveillance, which also included Microsoft’s Xbox Live, could raise privacy concerns. It is not clear exactly how the agencies got access to gamers’ data or communications, how many players may have been monitored or whether Americans’ communications or activities were captured, as of now.
“We are unaware of any surveillance taking place,” said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment, based in Irvine, Calif., which makes World of Warcraft. “If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission.”