IARPA’s Reynard project
It looks like IARPA's Reynard project is well under way at this point. This project is looking for ways to correlate things in virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft, with things in the real world. Here's how IARPA described what they're looking for:
Starting from the premise that Real World (RW) characteristics are reflected in VW behavior, the IARPA Reynard program seeks to identify behavioral indicators in VWs and MMOGs that are related to the RW characteristics of the users. Performers in the Reynard program will be expected to produce one or more VW behavioral indicators that serve to identify RW attributes of individuals or groups. Attributes of interest include the following: gender, approximate age, economic status, educational level, occupation, ideology or "world view", degree of influence, "digital native" vs "digital immigrant," approximate physical geographic location, native language, and culture. Other RW characteristics might also be empirically deduced through behavioral indicators. VW behavioral indicators may be examined in the areas of Avatars and Representation, Communication, Things That Avatars Do, Group Formation and Dynamics, Money and Economics, and Cultural Differences.
Because it's IARPA, the US government agency that funds research that the intelligence community is interested in, is sponsoring this research, they're probably trying to do things like find which people in a WoW game are really terrorists or similar things. That's what the ODNI's 2008 Data Mining Report (PDF) seems to suggest that they're interested in. But because the intelligence community is sponsoring this research, we'll probably never find out what they learned. That's too bad. This might actually be some interesting results from this project.