Fun and games

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

10 December 2013

You couldn’t make it up.

The slime of state snooping into people’s private lives has seeped into corners of cyberspace previously imagined unbesmirched by the spooks.

Now we know otherwise.

On-line gamesters, your number is up! Big Brother is watching you.

Yes, the snoops have opened up a whole new minefield of internet penetration – the on-line games industry.

According to media reports published today, the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British satellite, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have mounted a concerted drive to infiltrate global nerd communities whose tens of millions of members waste their lives playing on-line games.

This revelation comes in a further exposure – of the dirty tricks employed by secret police in so-called western democracies – by Edward Snowden, a former spook who worked for the NSA and is now a political refugee in Russia after he blew the gaff last year on the massive – and ongoing-  surveillance by state agencies of the private communications of countless millions of innocent citizens.

According to today’s London Guardian, an NSA document entitled “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games and Virtual Environments” stressed the risk of leaving online games communities under-monitored, describing them as a “target-rich communications network” where intelligence targets could “hide in plain sight”.

If properly exploited, games could provide vast amounts of intelligence, according to the NSA document. They could be used as a window for hacking attacks, to build pictures of people’s social networks through “buddy lists and interaction”, to make approaches by undercover agents, to obtain target identifiers such as profile photos and geo-location, and to allow collection of communications.

The spooks are also said to have tried to recruit potential informants from among the tech-savvy game-playing geeks.

According to the Guardian, however  – surprise, surprise – the documents contain no indication that this surveillance ever foiled any terrorist plot, nor is there any clear evidence that terror groups were using virtual communities of cyberspace gamesters to communicate in the way the intelligence agencies thought they might.

Now here comes the funny part.

The surveillance and infitration of online games communities has become so intensive and all-pervasive, involving all sorts of different semi-autonomous espionage  networks,  that the spooks are, inadvertently, spying on themselves!

No problem.

The NSA has set up a “deconfliction group” to spy on its own spies in a bid to stop them spying on each other.

As we said, you couldn’t make it up.


No one wants to meet a sticky end at the hands of terrorists.

We all want to feel secure.

But the fact is that the proliferation of secret state surveillance is making us feel exactly the opposite.

Novelist Ian McEwan says the following in today’s Guardian:

“Where Leviathan can, it will. The state, by its nature, always prefers security to liberty. Lately, technology has offered it means it can’t resist, means of mass surveillance that Orwell would have been amazed by. The process is inexorable – unless it’s resisted. Obviously, we need protection from terrorism, but not at any cost.”


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.






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