US, UK Spies Infiltrated Warcraft to Hunt Terrorists
Newly uncovered documents show American and British spy agencies went undercover in World of Warcraft and Second Life to dig up data on potential terrorists among the userbases of both games.
According to Pro Publica (who compiled the report in conjunction with the New York Times and the Guardian), new documents from Edward Snowden, the man who leaked various NSA files earlier this year, showed agencies like the CIA, FBI and GCHQ inserted themselves into the MMO landscape to infiltrate and observe.
While the efforts of groups turned up little to no evidence of terrorism within the game worlds, Snowden’s leaked files showed at least one benefit to the exercise: potential recruits. The GCHQ’s team uncovered engineers, embassy drivers, scientists and other foreign intelligence operatives in Warcraft, and may have attempted to recruit them as agents.
The NSA still believed as of 2008 there might have been some use in joining Warcraft, as its monitoring “[continued] to uncover potential Sigint value by identifying accounts, characters and guilds related to Islamic extremist groups, nuclear proliferation and arms dealing.” However, it’s unclear if any of the people playing were playing for reasons beyond enjoyment of the game itself.
For its part, Blizzard said no government agency was given clearance for surveillance or to gather intelligence on its users. “We are unaware of any surveillance taking place,” said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment. “If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission.”
As of now, it remains unclear if the results were worth the efforts, but it would appear in the five or so years since these reports were initially filed, not much has been discovered beyond the surface.