Government infiltrates Xbox Live and World of Warcraft in search of terrorists

[UPDATE] Microsoft says, "We're not aware of any surveillance activity. If it has occurred as reported, it certainly wasn't done with our consent"; Blizzard also releases statement.

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[UPDATE] Microsoft has provided a statement regarding the snooping reports, saying if there was any surveillance of Xbox Live, the company did not approve of it.

"We're not aware of any surveillance activity. If it has occurred as reported, it certainly wasn't done with our consent," A Microsoft spokesperson said.

A Blizzard Entertainment representative also provided a statement today on the matter. It is the same statement originally supplied to The New York Times and The Guardian.

"We are unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission," the representative said.

The original story is below.

No Caption Provided

The extent to which government agencies monitor online behavior is coming into focus. United States and British government agents have been monitoring fantasy games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, as well as the Xbox Live platform since 2008, performing surveillance and scooping up personal data for the online networks used by millions. That's according to documents from whistle-blower Edward Snowden released today via the New York Times and the Guardian.

Based on a fear that World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Xbox Live could be used by enemies to communicate, move money, or clandestinely plot attacks, United States (NSA) and British (GCHQ) government agents created characters and accounts to snoop on its users and gain information where possible, the documents show.

This 2008 NSA document, called "Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments," warned of the implications of leaving these online game networks undermonitored. The documents described the services as a "target-rich communications network" through which potential intelligence targets could "hide in plain sight."

The NSA paper said extracting communications data from World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Xbox Live would be necessary because users are able to communicate anonymously.

However, the document never says if any terrorist plots were foiled or even if any such organizations used the games and services to communicate in a meaningful way as the agency suggested they would. Still, this uncertainty did not stop the NSA and GCHQ from launching their probes. The GCHQ previously launched a "vigorous effort " to extract data from games, including "exploitation modules" for Xbox Live and World of Warcraft, the documents show.

For its part, the NSA in 2008 began to extract World of Warcraft metadata in an attempt to link accounts, characters, and guilds to Islamic extremism and arms dealing groups. Through the information collecting efforts, it was discovered that some World of Warcraft subscribers were in fact "telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military, and other intelligence agencies," the documents show.

A spokesperson for Blizzard Entertainment told the Guardian, "We are unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission." Meanwhile, representatives for Second Life and Microsoft declined to comment. It remains unclear how the government agencies were able to access the user data or how widespread the reported snooping indeed was.

Microsoft previously blasted "government snooping," vowing to enhance encryption going forward. We will continue to monitor the story as it develops. Check out the full 82-page report for more.

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R9270

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This is such BS! Why would terrorists be playing games anyway? Besides if they are playing games that means they are not out blowing stuff up, So it makes absolutely no sense to monitor games, This is just a excuse for the government to further violate privacy and push the police state! The government won't be happy until TSA is living in everyone's home like in southpark. I am so sick of the word terrorist being used to strip my freedom! I say we all stop paying taxes until they stop trying to take our freedoms, Why pay them to take our freedoms and shred our constitution of law? Sounds to me like it is the government that is the terrorists!

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hitechgraphs

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Xbots are so masochists to buy a console that spy on them by the hands of a crazy government agency.

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Anteares

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Ha! Yeah...these guys are 'searching for terrorists' on tax payer funds. Such a load of bullshat. The American police and feds have all the terrorists the world needs. We now know what the NSA does in its spare time against 'threats'.

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah, and they haven't been able to stop any of the massacres that have happened over the last two years, or maybe they caused them???

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deactivated-57bcc1891a93a

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> as much as I hate defending our often inept law enforcement, how many was there, like 1? I wouldn't call 3 deaths a massacre either.

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kingnothing47

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Would you kindly tell me which raid all of your terrorist friends are in

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Klikandclick

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i completely understand the purpose of government surveillance


having said that this is just plain silly

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MuffintopX

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They don't need your consent, that's the whole point. They'll find their way onto Kinect in a few years when enough people have one.

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Hicser03

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Just sounds to me like some nerdy intelligence agents duped their boss's into letting them play games at work.

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THE_DRUGGIE

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I think we should all build a gigantic complex in South Africa and have it populated by mercenaries who will defend us from evil government spying.


We can also have a giant tank robot that'll fire nukes.


It'll be cool!

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kingnothing47

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It's pretty much like any other place in the world. Albeit with more fat people.

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DemocraticTroll

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Terrorists play video games?

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DAOWAce

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Can I work as an investigator?


Actually, **** that, WoW and XBL are cesspits of insufferable teenagers who need a right punch in the face.

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ABIBASS

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Shut the **** up all of yall

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agpickle

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"Through the information collecting efforts, it was discovered that some World of Warcraft subscribers were in fact "telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military, and other intelligence agencies,"

Are you trying to tell me that some people that play games have jobs!?
Track those fuckers down, they're obviously terrorists!

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah, they actually have good jobs, and not jobs at McDonalds, Walmart, or Bi-Lo.

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chiefsplitNwigs

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LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT THE GOVERNMENT IS PAYING PEOPLE TO PLAY WOW AND XBOX GAMES TO LOOK FOR TERRORISTS? WHERE THE **** DO I SIGN UP ? WHAT A WASTE OF MY HARD EARNED TAX DOALLARS....UNLESS THIS LEADS TO SOME BIG TERRORIST ARRESTS MY MIND HAS JUST BEEN BLOWN...

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CyborgNinja92

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<< LINK REMOVED >>

This was a good laugh =)

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santinegrete

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If the Xbox Live avatar has a turbant, jump over it, right? -_-

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fredwv

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I guess this explains why Snacky the Gnome is on the No-Fly list ...

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> LOL

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TurambarGS

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'Through the information collecting efforts, it was discovered that some World of Warcraft subscribers were in fact "telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military, and other intelligence agencies," ' ... So you mean people from all walks of life ... play video games? I'm scared. What vital data, clearly justifying all the money spent on discovering it. Just nitpicking, but they could have 'discovered' the same information by browsing through the publicly available ESA player data.

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mkeezay22

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Both companies legally have to say they didn't do anything if they did, it is against the law for them to disclose if they were part of a government spy program under the intelligence identities protection act.


How many people in the past warned the public about these things and were labeled conspiracy theorists and nut jobs, and even now people dismiss it and say "it doesn't matter I'm not a terrorist" but that's not the point, the point is your rights are being taken away one by one.


When they take your guns and stop your right to free speech like they are trying to do now will you just say "that's okay I don't protest or shoot anyway" history repeats itself and what's happening now has happened time and time again.

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Let's face it. Our rights were actually taken away 100 years ago. This monitary system is a system of total control.

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Sorrow_42

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My god!This is so shocking,I mean I'm speechless.Do they really do that?Nah conspiracy theories,all lies everything is good right?Right?!

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Unfortunately, I think it's much worse than anybody can imagine. I won't go into it here due to being worried that I may be "picked up" if you know what I mean.

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Akijo

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"We're not aware of any surveillance activity. If it has occurred as reported, it certainly wasn't done with our consent," A Microsoft spokesperson said.


Yeah I just wanted to copy that from the text up here in case you didnt read it and just skip to the comment section to bash the Xbone.

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---Cipher---

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You think terrorists complain about WoW now? They ever talk about how much better WoW was pre-tBC?

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J_Dangerously

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If any of you have never read '1984' by George Orwell, do so, please.


The man saw this coming over 50 years ago.


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gamer112696

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I've read it. We're getting closer to it every year. Government is getting too big...we can take care of ourselves. But the government seems to think we need them 24/7.

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Kind of makes me think this government that was thought up may have been a bad idea all along. It's easy to get rid of a king-one man, but to get rid of hundreds of guys and girls that are in charge is almost impossible.

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mkeezay22

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The government is all run by big business now anyway, it doesn't matter if you vote democrat or republican it's just a big show to give you the illusion of choice.

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---Cipher---

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It's not "coming," it's "been" for quite a while.

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azizaam

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Read it, loved it and what he saw has started a long time ago.

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Martyr77

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This is why you don't buy a Spybox One. I mean Xbox One. Yeah that's it!

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wowwow27

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<< LINK REMOVED >> only da ps4 lets u upload video live right now tho.

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LilJayV10

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Most of you are idiots. If you would shut up and think instead of getting on GS just to bitch about something to make you feel better about your life would realize this. The reason the NSA is monitoring XBL and games such as WoW isn't because they are games it's because it's a form of communication that isn't monitored such as email, bank accounts, cellular calls and the like. If you are terrorist and you know the NSA, MI6 and the rest of the free world is monitoring every form of communication, you are going to use a way of communication that isn't monitored. Rather it be online gaming or carrier pigeons. But that level of thinking is probably too advanced for most of you, so go back to bitching about PC's v. consoles.

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psx_warrior

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Hmm, I guess you're unaware of how many people elements of the government have murdered for trying to reveal the truth. Edward Snowden's lucky that his case has been so popular and widespread that he's managed to get out of the grasp of the terrorist usa government before they could shut him up.

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cirugo

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terrorists are gonna gitcha!!

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wowwow27

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<< LINK REMOVED >> id say its easier to monitor, making it less safe.

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Martyr77

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<< LINK REMOVED >> YEAH! All forms of your communication should be monitored by the government! Wait....what?

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ceaseless

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What most people don't understand is they are monitoring for anyone or group planing to go against them and all illegal activity they have been on and they have been breaking laws and the constitution left and right. 'Terrorists' will always be the excuse, but they are only protecting themselves. As long as they are ahead of people who try to organize and fight back, they will be able to shut them down quietly and everyone else wouldn't even notice. Facebook, Twitter, Kinect, and other tools are instant personal data that people themselves should never upload or welcome.


Everyone is too comfortable to see that though. There's reality TV, garbage music, and the latest toy to keep people occupied. The "Terrorists" excuse is played out too many times over and is just a sub-conscience hypnotism to people who listen and believe in that fear tactic/security garbage.

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mkeezay22

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Exactly they keep the public in fear with all the talk of terrorists but more people in the US die falling off of ladders a year than are killed by terrorists.

The NSA isn't looking for terrorists they are looking for educated informed people who know what's going on in this world and are standing up against the top 1% of the top 1% who run this world, do you know who the Rothschilds or Rockafellers are? no you don't but you call people on here ignorant, go back to your peachy make believe life where the government is our best friend.



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Gopstop2222

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<< LINK REMOVED >> blah blah blah

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NFJSupreme

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knowing government workers they are probably playing wow and not actually monitoring it lol.

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Ghosthunter54

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Microsoft blasts government snooping. In unrelated news, Microsoft creates the kinnect 2.0, a super-sophisticated monitoring device, which is probably already uploading to the government.

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JRD1912

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Tax dollars at work!


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Ryftwalk

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Hmm, better not play anymore games period seeing as most of them involve killing other people or some form of life.

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