Various media outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica reported recently that American and British intelligence operations have been spying on gamers across the world. The world’s most powerful espionage agencies’ undercover agents have crossed into virtual universes to monitor activity in online fantasy games such as “World of Warcraft”. These agents have literally spent years keeping watch on online games for terrorists or informants. Because online games like World of Warcraft have such a large pool of gamers (reportedly up to 12 million paying subscribers), spy agencies have long been worried that such games serve as a good cover for terrorists or other evildoers who could use in-game messaging systems to swap information, move money or plan attacks.
Interestingly enough, Blizzard Entertainment, the company that brought us World of Warcraft, isn’t aware that Big Brother has been watching. Blizzard Entertainment said that they are “unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission.”
The Guardian reported that at the request of GCHQ, the NSA began extracting “World of Warcraft” data from its global intelligence haul, trying to tie specific accounts and characters to Islamic extremism and arms dealing efforts. The Times and ProPublica said that important details — such as how the agencies secured access to gamers’ data, how many players’ information was compromised, or whether Americans were swept up in the spying — were not clear.