Reports: NSA tracking online gamers - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Reports: NSA tracking online gamers

Updated:
Edward Snowden Edward Snowden

The NSA can track us through several different electronic sources, but now, they can even track us through video games.

Anyone playing the game World of Warcraft as Druids, death-knights or warlocks could also have another designation: surveillance targets. According to newly disclosed, classified documents, the NSA and its British counterpart have been infiltrating World of Warcraft, another online game called Second life, and the Xbox Live console. 

They've gathered meta-data, according to the documents, but also used human spies to go undercover and create their own avatars so they could interact with possible terrorists playing games. 

The documents were obtained by the Guardian newspaper from NSA leaker Edward Snowden and shared with the New York Times and Pro-Publica. 

E.J. Hilbert once chased gaming cyber-criminals for the FBI.

"In the online gaming world, you can communicate openly between two characters. And this is not something that goes over the line. It's in a smaller group. You can also gift money, in the form of gold or characters or online currency," he said.

Conceivably, terrorists could plan real attacks through these fantasy games. Experts say the fake identities, voice and text-chat capability (the ability to speak to others in real-time) are all features of game-play that terrorists find attractive. 

However, the NSA's spying program raises privacy concerns.

"It's a privacy violation because the people that participate in these gaming worlds think of the game interactions as ephemeral.You participate in the game, it disappears, you don't know who the characters are, everything is fantasy. And if it turns out that in fact the government is routinely storing all of that activity, analyzing it, linking it up to actual individuals with known identities, then i think people would be concerned," said Hilbert.

According to the Guardian and the Times, with all those elves, trolls and gnomes being surveilled, there's no indication of any terrorists caught, or plots foiled.

A spokesman for the NSA's British counterpart wouldn't confirm or deny the reports, but said that agency's activities are necessary and legal.
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