Last week, days before a horrific terrorist attack in Paris that shook the world, Belgium’s deputy prime minister Jan Jambon raised concerns about PlayStation Network. Specifically, Jambon (who also serves as the country’s minister of Security and Home Affairs) identified intense encryption on PSN inhibiting security services from monitoring for potential threats.
Speaking at a Politico-sponsored event on November 10, Jambon indicates that terrorists might be using gaming networks to coordinate. “I heard that the most difficult communication between these terrorists is PlayStation 4,” he said.
He goes on to indicate that Belgian security services have been attempting to penetrate the networks to monitor for terrorist activity. “It’s very, very difficult for our services, not only Belgian services but international services, to decrypt the communication that is done via PlayStation 4,” Jambon says.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that world governments have attempted to monitor gaming networks. In late 2013, information leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicated that the National Security Agency has monitored Xbox Live, World of Warcraft, and Second Life.
It’s important to note that there is no evidence that those that perpetrated last week’s attacks in France communicated via PlayStation Network or any other gaming service. Jambon’s statements, days ahead of those attacks are not directly related.
Sony has issues a statement to Eurogamer regarding the accusations.
PlayStation 4 allows for communication amongst friends and fellow gamers and, in common with all modern connected devices, this has the potential to be abused. However, we take our responsibilities to protect our users extremely seriously and we urge our users and partners to report activities that may be offensive, suspicious or illegal. When we identify or are notified of such conduct, we are committed to taking appropriate actions in conjunction with the appropriate authorities and will continue to do so.
Assuming that there is a direct link between the Paris attacks and gaming networks would be a mistake. However, as more reports emerge about government interest in monitoring these communications, gamers should be aware that – as with all online interactions – nothing should be considered entirely private.