Monday, December 09, 2013

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Of Course the NSA is Spying on Second Life - It Would Only Be Surprise If It Wasn't

Response_a_homeland_security_island
Response, a disaster simulation sponsored by US Homeland Security in 2005

When the NSA leaks began emerging this Summer, I asked Linden Lab if it was one of the many Internet companies providing the US spy agency with users' data, a question to which I receive no reply, which was no surprise -- so I wasn't surprised to read this New York Times story that the NSA is, indeed, monitoring Second Life users, along with other virtual worlds. Because actually, the real surprise would be if the NSA wasn't monitoring Second Life. Here's some background:

  • Back in 2007, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, a top Al Qaeda expert, told me jihadists were using Second Life to meet, perhaps creating anonymous groups of like-minded extremists. As I noted then, "if there are Jihadists in Second Life, there are also counter-terrorists. US Homeland Security, of course, set up a temporary SL project back in 2005 [pictured above]; it's likely that intelligence agencies and investigators like Dr. Gunaratna are already in-world, even without the Lindens' knowledge."
  • In 2008, then-Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale appeared before Congress to talk about the value and potential dangers of Second Life (which led to a segment on "The Daily Show".)
  • By 2008, Congress was late to the party, since by then, most branches of the US military, and major government agencies like NASA and NOAA, either had an official presence in Second Life, or were actively exploring it.

So with all that US government activity in Second Life we already know about, it's really not a surprise to find the NSA is there too. The more interesting question is whether this is a good idea, and whether it should be Constitutionally permitted at all. As it happens, leading jurist and legal theorist Judge Richard Posner discussed this in Second Life, when he appeared in SL to talk about his book on Constitutional rights in the age of Al Qaeda:

Richard Posner meets a furry

“There is I believe no legal impediment to an FBI special agent enrolling in Second Life under an avatar that would not identify him as an agent,” Judge Richard Posner opined back then, when I asked him about it. “The general rule is that if a building or other area is open to the public, anyone can enter if he adheres to the rules of the owner, but the owner cannot bar an investigator who does not resort to coercion or other distinctive police methods of investigation.” Judge Posner went on to offer a tacit acknowledgement that the conflict could make its way into the metaverse. “The Internet offers opportunities both for terrorists and counterterrorism,” he observed. So it's an arms race between the opposing forces, both seeking maximum advantage from the digital revolution.” And though it should have been expected all along, now we know Judge Posner's predictions have come true.

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Cake

The government can spy on me all they want. But I'm someone trying to sell my work anyway so I'd be kind of hoping they'd buy some stuff. Other people? They'd be pissed probably.

Ciaran Laval

This is all very Orwellian and the Cory involvement really comes across as creepy.

Then there's the hilarity angle of imagining spies shouting "For The Horde" or trying to deal with failed teleports.

Not a surprise that they monitor these platforms though, I agree that it would be more surprising if they were not monitoring them.

Iggy

Ahmed the Terrorist: Is that YOU, Ali, slayer of the Infidels?

Ali The Terrorist: Yes. How do you like my new look?

Ahmed the Terrorist: Why do you have a raccoon tail and why are you wearing restraints?

Ali The Terrorist: I have found my true self here in Second Life.

CIA Operative, disguised as potted fern: Confirm "Operation Linden"and get Langley to roll out the SL marketing campaign from Mali to Malaysia. In six months they'll be so deep in Drama and flame-wars we'll never hear the word "jihadist" again.

Issa Heckroth

I second the fact that I am not surprised the NSA are doing this.

I AM surprised that Cory spread his legs as wide as he could for them.

Selling it specifically as the opportunity "to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil."

Thats just outrageous, and it worries me how comfortable we are all becoming with all this government snooping. I come from the UK but moved away because it was all becoming a bit too Totalitarian for my liking. I live in Germany now, where people clearly remember the horrors of The Stasi. Why do you think the German backlash to all this has been the strongest? They can see what this is loud and clear.

To quote Eddie Griffin - I thought it was the United States of America. Not the United Empire of Earth.

Mondy

Meh..good luck to them coming to certain clubs and monitoring the gesturbators

Masami

I'm not surprised that it's happening, but I'm surprised by their reasoning. From the NYT article:

“Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement. It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”

This is priceless. It's like the proverbial basement-dwelling guy who thinks he can learn all about women by observing them in virtual worlds.

Second Life: a taxpayer-sponsored pixel zoo to educate Americans about foreign cultures. Just when you thought the U.S. couldn't sink any lower...

olehio

"...the USA are making first steps into the direction of treating Europeans like humans too." - Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

http://youtu.be/ErSReOKRBfY?t=57s

Iggy

While understanding both the need to collect intelligence and the need to protect the right of the innocent, I can't help but think that getting the "Second Life Station" assignment would be the least-sexy job imaginable for an NSA or CIA operative. We really live in a Vonnegut novel, don't we?

To quote from the Times: "The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers." Imagine the briefings:

NSA Section Chief: Smithers, here's you new assignment and login credentials.

Agent Smithers: Sir, my login name is "ChaChaBingos Giganticas?"

NSA Section Chief: After the incident with the bugged toilets in Islamabad, you are lucky to be logging in to a Burger King Cash register!

Agent Smithers: But sir (whining) I'm 'married' to someone called Fluffytail Divine!

NSA Section Chief: Do your duty, Smithers! When you are with your 'spouse' in Second Life, think of God, Apple Pie, and Mother. Well, maybe not Mother...

Arcadia Codesmith

Agent Richardson: I'm carrying your virtual baby. Please call.

zzpearlbottom

I would love to laugh but...
To believe the World thought Bush Jr was evil!

Pussycat Catnap

The entirety of American 'web 2,0 / social media' has been in cahoots with the NSA for years now. Its not news.

What is news is that they claim they were unwilling partners, and yet have actively denied being in cahoots until Snowden outed them.

And it looks like LLs is one of the few who ever admitted their dog was being wagged by that tail.

So we can call them scum for being in cahoots with them - or an 'honest corp' (a logical impossibility) for having been open about it since the beginning.

That said... I do love the irony in seeing companies like Google and Facebook complain in massive public open letters about the NSA invading privacy when they invade it even more... I'm a lot more fearful of 'Big Corp' than 'Big Brother' when it comes to the actual damage either is likely to do to people.

That said...

Now that these projects have been found to be worthless (in all these years they have found evidence of... exactly nothing...)

I guess that is why I no longer see 'katijas on a leash' out in the open all over SL anymore...?

From the NYT:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/world/spies-dragnet-reaches-a-playing-field-of-elves-and-trolls.html

"But for all their enthusiasm — so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat....."

Those 'deconfliction' groups where they realized that... oops... they were all just reporting and spying on each other. That other purple furry Gorean master vampire... was the bloke in cubicle 793 down the hall.

Maybe some of those hyper-agressive drama SL Secrets blogs... really are trying to find secrets... and somehow think that its really serious business to know which 'baby girl' of the 23,451 people using that display name in SL... is cheating with the BFF of which other 'baby girl'...

So...

The reason we get so much lag in SL... is because these fools are logging hours with thousands of 'baby girl' avatars trying to perv cam the skirts of blingtards...

/Fail...

See also:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/16/131216fa_fact_lizza

somethingherethatislikeanameforsomereason

SOME non-americans is NOT saying all Europeans! The sentence does not logically mean all non-americans. He did not claim Americans are not also involved, and this sentence makes him appear to be only confirming something in person and going on the record. He looks to have been a CIA contact for some reason, in fact if a CIA analysis on SL sends Mr. Au a note and asks a question then it is obvious Mr. Au has helped that person if he replies. Do we assume he works for him? But how can the NSA make a move based on a email that is claimed to be from Mr. Au? It is hard to do. But in the same way many would assume I am talking about the owner of this blog when I say Mr. Au, readers of that statement assume things as well.

Context. He is a former Navy officer, possibly his sense of duty and something about his character is known. It is possible HE was a target, the foreign entites mentioned may have been eleborated on to him, this may have been specific AND protected the identity of those involved by NOT mentioning a name. Why? Maybe those SL accounts where owned by a) agents provoking others and running or engaging in a fake ring to hasten the process of finding out motivations. This asset could be important, so you just say something vaugue and basically indicate you WHERE contacted, you do know and confirm. You are confirming in person the same way a soldier stands on a hill and looks down a lense, the same way a man confirms what he heard from a tribesman in afganistan and a Navy guy knows this means something an knows it can mean death. That is why face to face?

I don't know, and neither to many and I mention HE himself may have been a target because some people see SL avatars as equaling a transfer of conscieciousness that enabled SLer's to NOT be citizens while engaging in activities in SL. Logging in is akin to flying to another country to them, they are not engaging in enough business to be in that country, regardless of citizenship. If the US allows polygamy of visitors from another country then why would they ban US citizens from it? Are those foreigners not actually engaging in sex, monitary sharing or rearing children together when they are in the US? So the US ONLY apposes tax situations, hence the "Gay marriage" efforts? Lets face the fact that it is hard to say what should or should not stand, be allowed and so on with foreign countries for one reason, they exist for a reason: disagreement!

Once again, I pot into nothingness basically because I doubt it will ever make a difference and maybe that is a good reason to not click the back button and never post this lol.

anon

And now we understand what the Alex Jones propaganda placed just for those who might touch means....

Pole in the attic..... Pole in the attic.....

You created it for us to dance to, but it will be you whom dances and twirls around... smaller and smaller you go, so you may fit in the attic and dance to the pole.

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