Have you ever felt, while advertising your tanking services in the trade chat of Orgrimmar or discussing the circumference of your opponent’s mother’s behind in Call of Duty: Ghosts online, that you might be being watched? That your words and actions are being notated and analysed by government officials? No? Me neither.
It would seem we were wrong then – nowhere is safe from the purview of the law – not even in online gaming.
In a hilarious turn of events, the documents that whistleblower and diplomatic nightmare enthusiast Edward Snowden released have shown that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have employed their agents to be on the lookout for potential terrorist activities in online games, such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, as well as on Xbox Live.
It’s actually quite tough to pinpoint the most cringe-worthy element of this story. Could it be that these deeply sophisticated security agencies thought that Al-Qaeda raided twice a week and might divulge their latest plans for world domination after they cleared Throne of Thunder? Maybe they thought they took shooting practice in Battlefield 4? No, surely it’s that the fact that so many agents were present in online games, they needed to create a ‘deconfliction’ group to make sure that they weren’t spying on one another.
Wait, I’ve got it – it’s suggested that security agents present in these games have actually tried to recruit players to their cause. Christ. Imagine being whispered by a random player mid-play and being asked to join their efforts ‘in the interest of national security.’ I don’t know if I’d even go to the effort of reporting them, let alone replying with anything other than ‘Piss off.’
Worse yet, none of the documents suggest that terrorist cells were even present in these games. GCHQ caught some credit card fraudsters in Second Life in 2008, and that’s about it. What was the reason these ‘agents’ gave for spending the day playing games again?
I wonder if their subscriptions were paid with government money – that’ll be the next major upset.
Blizzard, developers of the World of Warcraft series, told the Guardian that they had no idea that the security agencies were conducting the kind of operations and information gathering that they were, and that anything done was not done with their permission.
The original article from the Guardian can be found here, and the relevant section of the NSA document can be found here. Be careful out there guys and girls – the next time you spew venom at that basecamping sheister, you may well be catching the Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond on his lunch break.