“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By Buttercup Thursday.
Recent documents from whistle-blower Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA has infiltrated online games, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft.
According to The New York Times:
Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks… intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players.
Apparently the spies worried about spying on themselves, since games tend to have avatars with fictional names:
But for all their enthusiasm — so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions…
Now there’s a job… Let’s play WoW or SL all day, as patriots defending America from the threat of terrorists! Except that no terrorist threats were ever documented. The Guardian:
Based on the records obtained by the Guardian, no terrorists plots were foiled during these efforts.
World of Warcraft representatives aver that no permission was ever given to the NSA to gather intelligence from its site or players.
“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.”
But Linden Lab? NYT reports:
In 2007, as the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies were beginning to explore virtual games, N.S.A. officials met with the chief technology officer for the manufacturer of Second Life, the San Francisco-based Linden Lab. The executive, Cory Ondrejka, was a former Navy officer who had worked at the N.S.A. with a top-secret security clearance.
He visited the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., in May 2007 to speak to staff members over a brown bag lunch, according to an internal agency announcement. “Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement. It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”
Come on in, NSA.