December 9, 2013
The NSA and GCHQ sent spies into online games to seek out terrorist or criminal chat and even to recruit valuable informants such as foreign embassy drivers who happened to be players, according to newly leaked documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Intelligence operatives feared that games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft could be used to secretly communicate, move money or plot terrorist attacks, all under the radar of existing snooping abillity. The security agencies were already able to intercept emails and phone calls, but many online games were considered possible safe havens for illegal activity.
In response to that perceived threat spies created their own avatars and joined the games, logging communications between other players. According to leaked documents provided to The Guardian and shared with the New York Times and ProPublica, Second Life, Xbox Live and World of Warcraft were all targeted, potentially affecting tens of millions of users.
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