NSA spying stretched into online gaming: report


The National Security Agency launched a campaign to tap the intelligence-gathering potential of online gaming, such as by infiltrating virtual communities, a media report said Monday.

The NSA, together with the U.K. intelligence service GCHQ, deployed agents to play online games where the agencies hoped to monitor any communications between groups and individuals suspected of taking part in terrorist activities, according to a report in The Guardian. The campaign also was meant to be a way to recruit potential informants.

The report was based on secret documents collected and disclosed by NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The intelligence agencies waged the online-spying campaign in virtual realms such as “World of Warcraft” and “Second Life”. They also monitored Microsoft’s Xbox Live network, where talk channels allow 48 million or so registered players to chat during gaming sessions.

The revelation comes as a group of U.S. tech companies, including Microsoft MSFT +1.07% , Google goog GOOG +0.82% , Facebook FB +0.37% , AOL Inc. AOL -1.36% , LinkedIn Corp. LNKD +0.42% , Yahoo Inc. YHOO -0.62% and Twitter Inc. TWTR +8.27% called for reforms in the way governments are able to collect user information.

“Transparency is essential to a debate over governments’ surveillance powers and the scope of programs that are administered under those powers,” the companies said in a full-page ad. “Governments should allow companies to publish the number and nature of government demands for user information. In addition, governments should also promptly disclose this data publicly.”