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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Is there a NSA spook in your XBox?

At least when we played Pac-Man at the arcade we knew who our friends were. Yes, all our friends were younger and some of them were weird, and all of them smoked and a few even whispered that the Village People were gay but at least we knew they were genuine people. They weren't avatars or bots or NSA spies. As if recent revelations rendering irrelevant our expectations of privacy in our emails, chats, and cell locations were not bad enough it's especially disconcerting to learn that government is in the XBox. Is there any area of our personal lives that is not subject to government scrutiny?
NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ have infiltrated the massive communities playing online games, according to secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Blizzard Entertainment, the producer of World of Warcraft said neither the NSA nor GCHQ had sought its permission to gather intelligence inside the game. "We are unaware of any surveillance taking place," said a spokesman. Microsoft has refused to comment but if it ran to form in this instance there is probably a back door in the XBox.
Given that gaming consoles often include voice headsets, video cameras, and other identifiers, the potential for collecting biometric information is boundless as well as the potential for abuse. While nanny state Democrats in Congress were wringing their hands over cyber-bullying on Facebook and being caught sexting on Twitter a virtual army of spooks, not only from the NSA, but also from the CIA, and the FBI were chatting up gamers.
Not being content just to snag an occasional terrorist which apparently the program has not, the NSA ventured into the politically correct realm and fretted that games could be used to "reinforce prejudices and cultural stereotypes". God forbid bigots are buying XBoxes!
You can read the whole sad story here.

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