If you've been playing World of Warcraft, Xbox Live, or Second Life recently, chances are big brother was watching.
Yesterday, it was revealed in a joint report published by The New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been actively monitoring various online games and game services including Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, Microsoft’s Xbox Live, and the popular online social sim Second Life.
The entire report, which spans 82 pages, listed specific concerning features inherent in each game or service, such as an Xbox Live user’s ability to remotely connect to Microsoft’s messaging service using their Xbox 360 console or a Second Life player’s ability to anonymously send SMS text messages to a GMS phone (the game’s developers eventually plan to allow for anonymous voice messages as well). World of Warcraft was included in the report because of the game’s staggering amount of email, chat log, friends list, character ID, and guild creation traffic the game sees virtually every day.
While the document did cite specific reasons, such as certain games being used as terrorist tools, as the cause for the report, none of the above three examples were found to have any links to modern terrorist threats. When questioned about their knowledge of the NSA’s monitoring, both Microsoft and Blizzard responded, saying that they were unaware of any sort of NSA involvement and that if the NSA was in fact monitoring their respective services, it was done without their consent.
Earlier this year, Microsoft was forced to enact new privacy measures after it was rumored that they and other companies had been complacent in NSA monitoring. The concern from the general public got so bad that the company had to re-work their next-gen Xbox One’s Kinect functionality. Originally, the Kinect was required to be plugged into the console in order for the entire unit to function but Microsoft reversed course and made it so that even if the Kinect was unplugged, players could still use their Xbox One console.