World of Spycraft: Report finds NSA spied on millions of video gamers

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In addition to PC games such as "World of Warcraft," spy agencies targeted users of Microsoft's Xbox Live service, the report found.

Calling them a “target-rich communication network,” American and British spies have spent thousands of hours infiltrating online video games in search of terrorists in recent years, according  to a new report.

The article, a joint effort among ProPublica, The Guardian and The New York Times, found that so many spies were playing games including “World of Warcraft” and “Second Life” that a special “deconfliction” group had to be created to keep operatives from accidentally spying on each other.

However, documents and interviews obtained by reporters found “little evidence that terrorist groups viewed the games as havens to communicate and plot operations.”

Documents show that the effort has been ongoing since at least 2008. Spies routinely collected player data and documented communications between players, the report says.

Government surveillance also reached Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, according to the report. Microsoft’s recently released video game system, Xbox One, features a camera with facial recognition technology that has raised privacy concerns in some sectors.

The makers of “World of Warcraft,” which has about 8 million active players, said they were not aware of the spy programs.

“We are unaware of any surveillance taking place,” said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment, based in Irvine, Calif. “If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission.”

Microsoft and Linden Lab, the company behind “Second Life,” declined to comment.

Read the full report on ProPublica.com.

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