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Thrall gets a new big brother: US government wants to search for terrorists on WoW

The Rogue in your next instance or battleground may just be a spy- not from the opposite faction, from the United States Government. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence submitted a report to Congress [Via Wired] on their plans to use data mining in virtual communities to root out spies. The project will involve sifting through vast amounts of data, looking for suspicious behavior and actions. The Intelligence Community wants to target MMOs because they typically fall outside the purview of study. The spying project would only use publicly available data. The findings of the endeavor would not be classified.

Data mining is the process of going through large amounts of information for specific relevant information. This is a process that has long been used in the business industry for product and market research. The government plans to use these same techniques to root out terrorist messages in online content.

The data mining operations that the report describes include Knowledge Discovery and Dissemination (KDD), Tangram, and Video Analysis and Content Extraction. KDD is takes information from different data sources to look for patterns. Although World of Warcraft and Second Life have very little in common, KDD allows analysis of similarities in suspicious behavior and activities in the game. VACE is also a tool for recognizing patterns in video content. Tangram is an evaluation system for known and new terrorist activities. The project will begin with a small effort, and if it proves fruitful may be expanded to a much larger scale.

Skinwalker of Windrunner started a thread on spying for terrorists on the official forums. He believes that this is an attempt to take away civil rights. Most of the responses in that thread have been either been echoing concerns about freedom or lighthearted jests. Aside from faction tensions, I haven't seen any evidence of extremist presence on WoW. To date, there has been no official word from Blizzard on this project

Filed under: Virtual selves, Odds and ends, News items, Forums

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