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US intelligence to spy on virtual worlds

Data-mining for "suspicious behaviour".

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

According to Wired, American intelligence agencies are planning to profile online gaming behaviour, and move on to "automatically detecting suspicious behaviour and actions in the virtual world".

This extraordinary revelation comes in a report on data-mining from the office of the Director of National Intelligence, Donald M. Kerr - America's chief spy.

The Director of National Intelligence advises the President on intelligence matters, and serves as head of the intelligence community, a sixteen-member body that includes the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the DEA, military intelligence and many other three-letter acronyms.

The report details the Reynard project, which will study "the emerging social, behavioural and cultural norms in virtual worlds and gaming environments". It will then apply its findings to a feasibility study on the automatic detection of suspicious behaviour online.

The Reynard project is described as a "small seedling effort" that will grow to a full project if it shows promise.

Exactly what suspicious behaviour the project is hoping to detect eludes us right now. Do high-level World of Warcraft players repeatedly ganking innocent low-level kids qualify as terrorists?

Or is it a response to last year's sensationalist reports that Al-Qaeda was using Second Life as a training camp?

Or is it just because they can?

As it stands, Reynard is an unclassified research project working with publicly available data, so there's no need to get too paranoid. Yet.

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