Okay. Let me check the date. Nope, not April one. Hmmm.
The US Director of National Intelligence(?) has a project called the Reynard Project. A part of that project is to datamine virtual worlds like World of Warcraft to identify behavior. To quote the data mining report (pdf).
Reynard is a seedling effort to study the emerging phenomenon of social (particularly terrorist) dynamics in virtual worlds and large-scale online games and their implications for the Intelligence Community.
- The cultural and behavioral norms of virtual worlds and gaming are generally unstudied. Therefore, Reynard will seek to identify the emerging social, behavioral and cultural norms in virtual worlds and gaming environments. The project would then apply the lessons learned to determine the feasibility of automatically detecting suspicious behavior and actions in the virtual world.
- If it shows early promise, this small seedling effort may increase its scope to a full project.
The report also states some of the activities that will be carried out, and the systems that will be implemented.
- Video Analysis and Content Extraction. This involves automatic image identification of various objects like faces and events.
- Tangram. This is a surveillance and threat warning system.
- Knowledge Discovery and Dissemination. This involves collating information from a number of different database to determine patterns of behavior. It will apparently involve collaboration with law enforcement agencies and Homeland security.
With the difficulty these guys seem to have identifying real terrorist threats, I’d have thought they might want to get their existing real world systems working before they started look for terrorists in World of Warcraft. The problem is that real human behavior is highly unpredictable. Even with all the social and cultural rules of society, there is enough legitimate anomalous behavior to confuse the pattern matching algorithms.
What happens when Warhammer comes online and players start to talk about attacking the other side? How will the threat warning systems monitoring the game respond to discussions of sneak attacks, and plans to take back territory?
It’s all rather laughable isn’t it?