Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
A conspiracy theory

The internet is full of conspiracy theories. And reality, with its various news of government spying on us, is fueling those theories nicely. Only that we saw too many movies like Men in Black or The Matrix or whatever and assume that government is some sort of sinister organization full of sinister people. But try to look at it under a different angle: What if YOU got a job at the NSA, were given nearly unlimited resources, and very little supervision. What would you do? After doing a bit of spying on that neighbor you don't like or trying to focus that million-dollar satellite camera on a topless beach in the south of France, you'd probably get bored of spying rather quickly. And, given the lack of supervision and the availability of good computers, you'd start doing something more fun. Like playing World of Warcraft. You could always say that you were watching for terrorists in the game.

And this is how we get to things like today's news, where the National Security Agency was revealed to have had lots of agents "spying" on World of Warcraft. Not by forcing Blizzard to hand over all chat data, or by doing any sophisticated hacking of data streams. No, the NSA agents said they were looking for terrorists by playing World of Warcraft and listening to general chat. :) Way to go, NSA agents! I wish I would work at a place where I could play MMORPGs during office hours and pass that activity off as actual work.

The NSA presumably doesn't hire stupid people. And it is evident to anybody with half a brain that watching Barrens chat for hidden terrorist messages is an enormous waste of time. Even if terrorists ever used a MMORPG as communication network, they would obviously use group or private chat instead of public chat channels. Even if you really believed that WoW was full of terrorists, you wouldn't plan to find them by playing the game. So this isn't a conspiracy to spy illegally on domestic targets or anything. It is a conspiracy to bullshit your boss into letting you play World of Warcraft at work. And not just you, but all your colleagues as well, because this is such a "target-rich communication network". You just write a memo explaining why playing WoW is really what you should be doing at work, and until the day Edward Snowden publishes that memo, everything is fine.

Isn't this exactly what we would have done if we had been in the same position?

No, what I'd do if I get to such position is downloading all this bullshit nonsense files to my computer, fly to Russia and then laugh my ass off as I single-handedly brought down the most powerful conspiration ever existed.

Using nearly unlimited possibilities to ... play WoW is a bit small for my taste.
Using nearly unlimited possibilities to ... play WoW is a bit small for my taste.

But very, very human. Just look at what exciting technology humanity has at its disposal, and what we are actually using it for.

I'd also object to the use of the term "brought down". To the best of my knowledge all that spying is still up, and not down at all. While he certainly aimed at "bringing down", the actual consequence is closer to "causing a bit of embarrassment". In exchange for never being able to go home again, that is a high price to pay for righteousness.
And it is evident to anybody with half a brain that watching Barrens chat for hidden terrorist messages is an enormous waste of time.

Barrens and trade chat is an act of terror all by itself, I think.

I wonder what the daily reports to their superiors will include.
I work at a place where I have to watch videos about stuff like this once a year. They actually showed 2 first level dwarves running up to each other in WoW and having a public conversation. I just rolled my eyes and went back to reading more interesting stuff on my phone.
In fairness, they might be able to engage people in public conversations in order to get into more closed circles of discussion on private channels where such "terrorist" talk occurs. That seems like a long shot, but it's not impossible.
And I always wondered who are those people who can't get out of void zone...
Such would be the conventional thinking.

And ones opponents generally stick to conventional thinking, of course. They are quite obliging that way.
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