This story has been reported in partnership between The New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica based on documents obtained by The Guardian. Justin Elliott is a reporter with ProPublica, and Mark Mazzett is a reporter with The New York Times.
Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.
Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games 2014 fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions 2014 American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.
Read the rest of the story on ProPublica.