Both British and American intelligence groups have used Xbox Live, World of Warcraft, Second Life, and other, similar online services to monitor for terrorist activity, according to documents obtained by The Guardian.
The classified documents were disclosed to The Guardian by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and were subsequently reported on by The New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica. Their reports indicate that intelligence agencies spent several years monitoring online gaming under the belief that terrorist or criminal networks could use these services to secretly communicate outside of normally watched channels.
No successful counterterrorism initiatives seem to have come from this monitoring, according to the reports, but according to the 2008 NSA document “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments,” “terrorist target selectors have been found associated with Xbox live, Second Life, World of Warcraft,” and other games.
Blizzard and Microsoft have both responded to this news by emphasizing that they did not consent to any surveillance through their respective services.
“We’re not aware of any surveillance activity. If it has occurred as reported, it certainly wasn’t done with our content,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Polygon in a statement.