UK & World News

  • 10 December 2013, 5:33

Spies 'Infiltrated' World of Warcraft Game

British and US spies infiltrated online game worlds, such as World Of Warcraft, believing that terrorists could be using them to communicate with each other, according to new claims.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK's GCHQ reportedly used in-game characters to carry out their surveillance and tried to recruit informants.

The alleged snooping is revealed in the latest documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden published by the Guardian, the New York Times and the ProPublica site.

Discussions between players using Microsoft's popular Xbox Live network were also reportedly spied on by the Government's GCHQ listening post.

A 2008 NSA document - Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games and Virtual Environments - said so many agents were inside the Second Life game that a "deconfliction" group was set up to ensure agents were not accidentally spying on one another.

The New York Times claims: "Because militants often rely on features common to video games - fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions - American and British intelligence agencies (were) worried that they might be operating there."

It says the leaked secret documents give no indication that a terrorist plot was ever foiled by the spying and that it is unclear whether terrorists were actually using the games.

"It is unclear how the agencies accessed their data, or how many communications were collected," adds the Guardian.

GCHQ is said to have asked the NSA to help it link World of Warcraft "accounts, characters and guilds" to Islamic extremism and arms dealing.

One leaked memo also reportedly states that the UK agency believed "telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military and other intelligence agencies" were among the game's subscribers - and so ripe for recruitment as informants.

GCHQ said it had no comment on the stories and reiterated it operated in "a strict legal and policy framework".

The NSA declined to comment, according to the publications behind the latest claims, while World of Warcraft maker Blizzard Entertainment said it knew nothing of the alleged surveillance.

Microsoft and the founder of the Second Life game, Philip Rosedale, also declined to comment.

The latest reports come as leading technology companies such as Facebook called on the US government to impose limits on surveillance.

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