A newly released document, provided to The Guardian by now-infamous whistle-blower Edward Snowden shows that the National Security Agency (NSA) truly knows no bounds when it comes to snooping. Since at least 2007, the agency has been sending virtual undercover operatives into online gaming platforms like Second Life, Xbox Live and yes, even World of Warcraft.
Agents were deployed to monitor chat and root out the secret terrorist cells that might to be masquerading as gnomes and night elves as they plotted some serious real-world raiding. NSA agents even went so far as to attempt to recruit tech-savvy gamers to their cause. As the investigation went on, not only did the NSA implement mass-collection of chat logs and user data, but they had to establish a "deconfliction" unit, whose sole purpose was to operate as an online gamer-snooping czar, assuring that NSA teams didn't accidentally target each other, all while World of Warcraft creator Blizzard was completely unaware of the breach of its security.
Everyone from Al-Qaida to government-backed Chinese hackers and an Iranian nuclear scientist were found to have been using Xbox Live, World of Warcraft and other online gaming platforms, the NSA said. Attempts were made by the FBI, CIA and Defence Clandestine Services to link "accounts, characters and guilds" to specific terrorist organizations. But after years of this sort of spying on suspected terrorists and innocent gamers alike, not one terrorist plot has been discovered. The biggest catch all this skulduggery netted the NSA was a group of credit card fraudsters operating in Second Life.
For the average gamer, this basically means that not only are you paying to play, but you're paying to be spied on as well. Your chat logs may have been recorded, your guild infiltrated and your personal info scraped from the servers. So, even if you're role-playing, maybe just watch what you say in-game from now on. Your virtual life could come crashing into the real world in the form of government thugs who think they're on the trail of a terrorist cell.