The National Security Agency planted agents into gaming communities including "World of Warcraft" hoping to intercept criminals and terrorists plotting via online chat, according to documents leaked to the press by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Agents have created profiles to spy and recruit informants about potential illegal activity using online games including "Second Life," which the 2008 agency document called "a target rich environment" for anonymous chat, according to The New York Times, which partnered with the Guardian and ProPublica for the story. The documents do not indicate that spies playing video games helped thwart any terrorist or criminal plots, The New York Times added in its story on Monday.
Blizzard Entertainment, which designed "World of Warcraft," told The New York Times that neither the NSA or the British Government Communications Headquarters spy agency sought permission to search for terrorist activity using the game platform.
Previous reports using documents leaked by Snowden made public the extent of the NSA's requests for data from tech companies seeking national security risks, but also revealed how the agency tapped the traffic between the data centers of Google and Yahoo without asking permission. These and other tech companies, including Facebook, have expressed concern that these reports might make them seem vulnerable to spying, and could lose the trust and business of individuals and corporate consumers. With that in mind eight tech companies including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and LinkedIn formed an advocacy campaign on Monday entitled "Reform Government Surveillance," calling for tighter controls on how the government collects personal information.
The companies posted an online letter Monday addressed to President Barack Obama and Congress, highlighting five principles to guide new policy limiting data collection in the U.S. and other nations. These include respecting privacy rights by limiting government authority to collect data, increasing public oversight and accountability of data requests from intelligence agencies and increasing transparency for government data requests. The tech companies also called for governments to respect the free flow of information by not requiring data centers to be built within a nation's borders and by reconciling data privacy laws to prevent companies from being tangled in conflicting international regulations.
The campaign website includes statements about the importance of data privacy from executives of major tech companies including Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo.
"Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world," Mayer said. "Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions."