09 December 2013

That vampire you've been shagging could be an NSA spy!

Oh for pete's sake ... The Guardian in the UK reports that according to documents supplied by Edward Snowden, the US's National Security Administration and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters decided that virtual worlds like the World of Warcraft and (of course) Second Life might be a haven for international terrorists (forgetting, as usual, that they should first look in the mirror), and so they're now present in-world to do some spying the good old-fashioned way: by dressing up as orcs and almost certainly as vampires (fitting, huh?). That woman wearing an Alli & Ali box on her head as though it were the hair she just bought? Be careful, she (or he) is listening to you bitch about wanting a version with streaks, and classifying your comments as code for bombing a Pizza Hut. The NSA & GCHQ have also raided Xbox.

I have to quote a couple paragraphs from the article:
One problem the paper's unnamed author [an NSA analyst] and others in the agency faced in making their case – and avoiding suspicion that their goal was merely to play computer games at work without getting fired – was the difficulty of proving terrorists were even thinking about using games to communicate.
and this:
Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA, and the Defense Humint Service were all running human intelligence operations – undercover agents – within Second Life. In fact, so crowded were the virtual worlds with staff from the different agencies, that there was a need to try to "deconflict" their efforts – or, in other words, to make sure each agency wasn't just duplicating what the others were doing.
The second paragraph there is pretty scary. But I have to admit, I can't stop laughing. Hello, Austin Powers, and the 1967 spy film satire Casino Royale. But at last, we finally know why we get so many random "bite" offers: they're made by CIA officers conducting a sting operation.

Addendum: Wagner James Au has a post about this in New World Notes, with a little history and a mention of its constitutionality. As he points out, there's nothing really surprising in any of this; but something about it strikes me as ridiculous. What sort of body shape, skin, hair and clothing do the NSA and GCHQ spooks shop for? Are they investigating the BDSM community for interrogation techniques, or do they think the steampunk crowd is developing new and highly dangerous weaponry? Hey, maybe we now have the truth about SaveMe Oh! :-P

(OK, I admit, that was slightly mean. But I cut my political teeth when the FBI was massively infiltrating leftwing groups with agents provocateurs.)

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