Just when I thought the hype surrounding Second Life was over, the FBI has apparently started exploring virtual worlds. So far, their efforts have been rather modest (a couple of virtual billboards with the Most Wanted list and other information), but if this “pilot test” is successful is might be expanded:

An FBI spokesperson thinks there might be arrests based on information from virtual worlds in the near future:

“The ease at which information can be transferred, ideas can be exposed, and technology can be shared in virtual worlds will hopefully lead to the arrest of a fugitive or the location of a missing child in the near future.”

Technically, this is not the first time the FBI has officially explored a virtual world; as early as 2007, FBI officials have visited Second Life at the request of Linden Labs.

I suspect the FBI already has several agents working full-time in various virtual worlds; these semi-anonymous worlds offer excellent opportunities for criminals to meet up, and they would be very stupid not to have a presence here.

A more important question is whether or not they will open a real office in virtual worlds; the virtual economies in these worlds are becoming increasingly interconnected with the real economy, and calls for an FBI office in Second Life have been heard since late 2007. While I don’t expect police or FBI to investigate the murder of a virtual character, virtual crimes that have a real-world effect might be worth a closer look.