Why the NSA Spying on WoW and SL is a Non-Issue

The NSA has been spying in WoW and SL and a lot of gamers are scared the big brother is watching them fail to gank someone a few levels below them. David "Xerin" Piner takes a look at why this is really non-news and everyone can breath a sigh of relief and get back to leveling.

Hey guys quick cut your computers off the government is invading our digital video game land and could soon learn of your thoughts about that officer who is a total jerk to you. Hey, that officer who is a total jerk to you? That could be an NSA agent! Wait, nevermind, they’re over in the guild “US GOVT SPY AGENCY” and they’re waiting and watching over America one AFK in Orgimmar at a time.

Okay, well this is a non news news story that is spreading across the web and freaking everyone out. People who make political statements on Facebook are now spamming me with pictures of Dwarves talking about freedom and their political views all the while we, the gamers, know the truth of the matter. First, this isn’t new. Second, the project is obviously some kind of way for agents to play WoW together at work and not get in trouble.

Upset Dude

This guy is going to plow through guild and record you talking about your frozen pizza tonight.

Let’s look at the facts: the government is watching and that is an entirely different discussion. The group of spies made a guild in WoW and they all played on Second Life and did spy type things to see if anyone was talking about bad stuff.

Except, the reality is it’s a non-issue for a ton of reasons. The only information they could obtain is by sitting idle in Orgrimmar and logging chats or I guess really putting the effort in to playing the game and joining your guild, but the big question there is what are they going to gain listening to everyone talk about What does the fox say? Your privacy at that point was invaded by the mechanics of the game, the sense that anyone can share the discussions held in front of them from the game.

Not to argue with the future as described by Ayn Rand and George Orwell, but I mean, come on. If you talk in public, people can listen. I’m sure there are people who FWD the FBI their guild chat logs willingly every night in the hopes they’ll van an guild officer who openly talks about a specific plant he indulges in nightly before raiding. Some people I’m sure have a wiki devoted to what everyone in WoW says to them.

If you play Second Life half the profiles talk about bringing legal suit against anyone who logs their conversations and the others have quips about how they log everything. If you’re in someone’s sim and you say something, odds are it’s on 14 different computers engraved into their appdata folder until a format comes along.

My point is this: this is non-news and no one should care. Government workers who play the game at home and government workers who play the game at work can get the exact same information. It isn’t until WoW and Linden Labs starts logging conversations on their servers and handing them over to the NSA that we’d have an issue.

Let me tell you something - I’d have a big issue over that. Chat in games is an ENTIRE different universe where what is said, the lingo, etc. is not for prying eyes. Just as I’m not ok with other chat logs being handed over. Again - different discussion for a different type of site.

However, I have no issue with anyone logging into a game and people watching. Government, you, your friends, whatever. If I say something in public, no big deal. It’s when they get into our private stuff that it matters.

I think that’s the best way to say it. They didn’t get into anything that no one else could in this latest round of intrusions. They just played the game and talked to people. Therefore, it’s not that huge of a deal. Just odd because it involves video games and the media loves video games.

Side note as to people saving your logs. It seems that WoW saves logs for 60 days. According to the documents that I read (no clue about the validity). That isn’t a much known fact. Well, after reading this, I hope it’s a little bit less known and a reminder to say only things you mean online.

We’ll talk a little bit more about the media and video games in my Respawn on Wednesday.

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About The Author

Get in the bush with David "Xerin" Piner as he leverages his spectacular insanity to ask the serious questions such as is Master Yi and Illidan the same person? What's for dinner? What are ways to elevate your gaming experience? David's column, Respawn, is updated near daily with some of the coolest things you'll read online, while David tackles ways to improve the game experience across the board with various hype guides to cool games.

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