Escapist News Now: NSA Spying on Gamers - Microsoft Responds

Escapist News Now

New member
May 10, 2013
NSA Spying on Gamers - Microsoft Responds

The Guardian, the New York Times, and ProPublica and exposed an 82-page document that revealed the NSA and British Intelligence had been monitoring chat transcripts in Blizzard's World of Warcraft, Xbox Live, and avatar game Second Life.

Watch Video


Apr 23, 2020
United States
You know you dun goofed when Microsoft is calling you out for spying on people.

Steve the Pocket

New member
Mar 30, 2009
Honestly, if I were a terrorist, and I were afraid that my usual methods of communication had been compromised, I just might start looking to unconventional alternatives. In-game chat features in MMOs, though, wouldn't be my first pick by a long shot since the NSA is already straight-up wiretapping our Internet connections and, thus, already gathering any unencrypted data that happens to be coming and going. I'm pretty sure that includes any communication that's done inside video games. So not only are they unlikely to find any actual terrorists with this program; it's also totally redundant.

Also I like how they refer to Second Life as an "avatar game". Because that's basically the whole point of it, isn't it? Just having an avatar in a digital world for its own pure sake.


Solar Empire General
May 9, 2008
... Sorry, but it's getting to the point where business is now fighting over-reaching government. Modern McCarthyism is what we're seeing here, Only instead of communism, it's terrorism. The NSA is out of control, and Congress refuses to impose oversight.


Better Red than Dead
Aug 5, 2009
I bet right after those documents were revealed the terrorists gave up their intentions of using it as a platform of communication and just started playing the games.

Or, you know, they were never on them to begin with. Did they have any background data to suggest that games were being used in such a way or did they merely want to have access to public money so they could buy elite gear to be cool.

NSA. We don't know where the terrorists are so we're looking everywhere just in case. Join our guild!


New member
Sep 6, 2009
Escapist News Now said:
The Guardian, the New York Times, and ProPublica and exposed an 82-page document that revealed the NSA and British Intelligence had been monitoring chat transcripts in Blizzard's World of Warcraft, Xbox Live, and avatar game Second Life.
Did you describe the NSA as "shadier" or "shittier"? My speakers are a little out of whack at the moment, some words sound like others.

But yeah, this is on the shady/shitty side. I hate to ask the obvious question, but do No Sense Anymore seriously think the evil terrorists would use the most popular MMOs to communicate?


New member
Apr 10, 2010
Definatly news stories a few years back before all the latest round of goveremetn spying cropped up that said that tat least one group had ben caught in part from info gleaned from such an op.

Given that its fairly normal pactise to record chat logs, MMOs are not the haven they may appear to be, without such monitoring and with the view that its stupid to use games they would make a great place to hide (if no-one thinks to monitor a method of comms then only a fool wouldnt consider it).

As with all these things its the broad blanket approach that appears to be happening. Its the lack of due process in setting up the survalence with warrents and the like because they have evidence.


Robots will replace your job
May 28, 2011
There were cases where criminals were using WOW gold resellers as a way to transfer money without direct link between the two people. It definitely IS happening and no wonder they are trying to curb it.

Sarah Frazier

New member
Dec 7, 2010
Could the NSA at least try to appear helpful and root out all the gold sellers to put an end to them? No?

There goes my dream of a spam free MMO.


New member
Apr 2, 2008
Wait... so there's some poor NSA staffer whose job it is to sift through the WoW chatlogs and forusm looking for potential terrorist coded messages?

My heart goes out to that guy. Worst job EVER.


New member
Mar 11, 2013
And I'm back into being a full time Andrea Rene believer.

That did't take long... In the words of Jerry Maguire's lemon squeezed squeeze: "You had me at "Just when you thought the NSA couldn't get any shittier it turns out they could." Power to the people!


New member
Sep 21, 2010
Using MMOs to communicate is way more convenient and fast than using, say text messaging on a burner phone.

Yep, nothing wrong with that statement at all./sarcasm

Sadly the host's comment about using this as an excuse to game on the job is likely frighteningly accurate.


Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
Freyar said:
... Sorry, but it's getting to the point where business is now fighting over-reaching government. Modern McCarthyism is what we're seeing here, Only instead of communism, it's terrorism. The NSA is out of control, and Congress refuses to impose oversight.
Alright, I missed this when it first came out (haven't been on The Escapist as much as usual) but I wanted to make a couple of points, and address this response in particular.

The idea of terrorists and criminal enterprises using MMOs to communicate is an old one that has been around decades. To be honest the government being noticed doing this now shows how far behind the curve it actually is. The thing is that being private networks, that see huge amounts of traffic, it's pretty easy to speak more or less about anything without much chance of it ever being discovered. This is why there have been so many concerns about pedophilles and the like using these games to stalk targets, arrange hook ups, etc over the years, with a few cases of them being caught.

When talking about savvy criminals, terrorists, and intelligence types, what your looking at are global networks where it's not considered suspicious to login pretty much at any time, from anywhere. What's more a point missing about this is that the guys involved would likely use a cipher or code for their communications, as opposed to just flat out saying what they were up to. Given the deep lore and jargon of some of these games it would be quite easy to make it appear your having a conversation about the game, when your actually discussing something else, especially if it's going on in guild chat or whatever, something which would also make it very, very, difficult to pick up from the general range of traffic.

Those currently decrying this kind of thing also seem to miss that we've already seen MMOs heavily used by organized crime and for money laundering. Gold farming and the like have made it so that you can transfer fantasy currency into real money and vice versa in order to facilitate cash transfers over international boundaries, not to mention the point raised in some quarters when China was caught using prison inmates to farm gold and the like, that such activities can be used by governments to generate funds off the record for black bag operations. Not to mention all the controversies in Second Life which went on for a long time (and still do) about Lindens being a decent currency for illegal transactions, much like how Bitcoins were being used on "Silk Road" not too long ago before the crackdown. Selling things like kiddie porn and the like was a huge deal in Second Life and had crime syndicates involved in it on that end as well as the money laundering, as well as the allegations that large numbers of criminal deals went down using lindens as an untraceable currency, especially given how for quite a while it was not uncommon for tens of thousands of dollars to flow that way given the cost of certain virtual properties and the rent on them (one person quite famously having made millions off of Second Life real estate development and sales).

The point is that when it's something we as gamers don't like, we tend to forget the legitimate points behind it. It's not surprising that a lot of the crap we ourselves have talked about and complained about got government attention, as well as people looking at the potential for things to go even further.


Now here is the point people are REALLY going to hate:

You can't really scream about government excesses in security when this is what the American people themselves demanded, we're seeing the price of other choices finally coming due and not liking it.

The USA is involved in a number of cultural and idealogical wars, the kind of wars where it's less a matter of absolute good and evil, right and wrong, as much as it's a matter of us or them. The kind of conflicts where the fundamental identity of the peoples involved have put us into inevitable conflict.

In facing The Middle East for example we're looking at a region dominated by theocracies which are based on spirituality as opposed to reason, and thus cannot be reasoned with, although as people they are smart enough to play the game with the media and pretend to be reasoned with when convenient. When things finally came to a head here we were put into a position where we had two basic choices, we could either bring Armageddon to the entire region and wipe our every Muslim in that geographic region, annihilating the parent cultures of a much larger problem, and seeing the ideas gradually die out, OR we could take a more defensive stance, engage in a measured response, and hope over time and with some subtle and not so subtle manipulation the problem would sort itself out without needing to cause the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

With China and Russia the situation is similar, we face the option of either going into a real war, pre-emptively attacking and trying to wipe them out in World War II, or taking a defensive posture, and again hoping with time things tend to work out and the conflicts die down despite the damage being done by China's robber economy and such, as well as that cooler heads will prevail on their side and the invasion forces China is building up will never be launched.

That's intentionally simplistic, but that's pretty much our stance in a nutshell. Of course not going to war and taking a defensive stance means needing to be more on guard against terrorists, intelligence services, and similar things than ever before. In many cases using the defensive techniques against "soft power" attacks (soft power being intelligence, economics, etc... as opposed to hard power which is direct military attacks and destruction) that exist mostly in war time in a time of peace. In short that means tighter government controls in response to growing information technologies and the potential threats they present. Had we chosen to attack and wipe out (or try and wipe out) our enemies directly we wouldn't be in this kind of situation one way or another, we'd either be dead, or safe enough where it wouldn't be a huge concern. In short when one decides to circle the wagons and wait out an enemy, one cannot complain when things get awfully uncomfortable inside that circle after a while.

The thing about paranoia is that just because your paranoid does not mean nobody is out to get you. In this case we are facing some very clear and present dangers. People right now want security, not having to put the blood of billions on our hands, and not having the government all up in our business. Sadly we cannot have all of those things simultaneously.

A lot of people hate this point, but when your looking at these guys in The Middle East, China, etc... up to their antics, understand them being there to do those things is pretty much why the government might occasionally read something in your MMO guild chat.

It's a little different than Mcarthyism here because that was more of a domestic political power grab and ideological purge, as opposed to response to an actual, known threat. Honestly though I *DO* see a bit of the whole Mcarthy thing going on in the opposite direction, as we're seeing the persecution of the American right wing to a crazy extent right now that might go that far, but that's another entire discussion, and one that will go nowhere good on these forums as you'll probably find a lot of people in support of it, which is half the problem. :)

As I said, a lot of people will hate these points, sadly we can't have our cake and eat it too. As nice as the sentiments about "He who sacrifices liberty for security deserves neither" are, in the coming era, and facing threats not even conceived of at the time, one has to pragmatically look at balancing things out.

Of course then again going by that same sentiment, the overall solution IMO would be not to have taken this kind of defensive stance to begin with. As I've said for over a decade now, the USA should have unleashed the full power of it's military might before now, and done it's damndest to outright annihilate the threats even at the cost of billions of lives. Heinlan would probably agree with me, being an extreme militant himself. Think of it this way. If The Middle East was pretty sterilized, and China and Russia's military and economic ambitions were dismantled right now, we wouldn't have a need for this kind of security. If we died in the process, failing to achieve our goals... well in a way that's "Liberty or Death", having fallen in an effort to destroy the threats that prevent us from having the degree of liberty due to security concerns that we should have.