Pwned and played: Big Brother is toying with our privacy

The spooks hit World of Warcraft; now they're infiltrating Angry Birds and sullying good Smurf names. Is nothing sacred?

I was hoping to riff directly off Tuesday's State of the Union address, but since President Obama mentioned my pet peeve only once in passing, there's not enough to say. In his words:

That's why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.

Dude, you need new advisers. That ship sailed, hit an iceberg, and sank. That four-piece ensemble playing the strings while Leonardo DiCaprio froze to death? That was our personal privacy. When Obama's policies address reality, then I can skewer him. For now, he has serious catching up to do -- maybe start here.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Cringely peers into the crystal ball and comes up with 10 crazy tech predictions for 2014. | Can we talk? Send your tech war story to offtherecord@infoworld.com and get a $50 AmEx gift cheque if InfoWorld publishes it. We're all ears! ]

I already complained a couple of times when it came out that the NSA had little gnome mages running around World of Warcraft looking for al-Qaida fanatics holding secret online meetings beneath the Bridge of Souls. Now it's out that our multi-billion-dollar intelligence community has been raiding Angry Birds to find out where you're playing, whom you're playing with, and what their contact information might be, as well as when and how often you talk to them on your secure-as-Swiss-cheese mobile device.

Part of the story includes the British version of the NSA. Apparently the folks going through the reams of documents that Edward Snowden leaked to the world have finally dug deep enough to find evidence of Smurfgate.

Big Brother is smurfing you

According to Snowden's docs analyzed by the Guardian, when the British spy techs who work for the GCHQ (Britain's NSA equivalent) come up with new recipes for hacking into our private lives, they give them cute Smurf names -- probably because they hate everything American, especially Disney, which means dwarf names are out. Instead, when they come up with a new hack tool, like a hyper-accurate geo-locator that knows when and where you're on the throne, they'll call it something like Tracker Smurf. For Warcraft, it's probably Frodo Smurf, and for Angry Birds it's likely Birdy Smurf or Ha Ha We're Screwing You Smurf.

All this is, of course, blindingly ironic coming out at pretty much the same time as Data Privacy Day -- and the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, for that matter. Forget that part where I said you might want to think before accessing your bank account from your mobile device. Instead, take the damn thing in the backyard and light it on fire. Then get a Blackphone, though that's probably a red herring secretly funded by the NSA and sharing information with a litany of three-letter acronyms, including the CIA, the IRS, and TMZ.

Really, that's too simple an explanation. I don't think that's what they're doing at all. Wherever the NSA's vaunted hacker battalion is festering, it's undoubtedly several floors of a warehouse-sized office building covered in grayed-out windows, powered by massive generators, decorated with action figures, littered with Jolt cans and zit cream, and equipped with enough parsed bandwidth even a Ritalin-deprived flibbertigibbet wouldn't complain. That's a gamer's paradise.

1 2 Page
From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies