So I'm running a long-standing role-playing game wherein the players' characters in the game are unknowingly working for another character who wants access to the data of the United States Intelligence Community regarding a particular topic and plans to have them excavate the ruins of certain key data storage facilities (it's a post apocalyptic game), while contending with the still-functioning defense systems, in order to procure access to the server banks containing the data he desires.

While I intend to design the fictional physical defense systems myself (they will be near-future) I started researching the locations and layouts of east-coast data storage facilities for the Nation Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office and constructing a scribblemap via an anonymous account to plan out the layouts and campaign trail and such. This means preparing for the various actions the players might take, researching how the various buildings are laid out, annotating maps with key pieces of information so that later, when we play the game, I know what should happen, how, and why for the various situations that the players might bring about.

Then I realized that I was labeling actual government buildings on a copy of Google Maps with annotations like "Primary Target" and "Possible point of entry" and such and that this behavior might be similar to the things the Department of Homeland Security or some such looks out for. I mean, terrorists probably don't label spots on the buildings "Laser turret: 1d6+1d6/success, attk skill +24, insusceptible to EMP, sensors integrated thermal and millimeter-wave scanner", but still.

Is this something I should be worried about? If so what sort of things should I avoid doing/do to avoid ending up on a CIA watch list or something? Has anyone gotten in trouble for researching these kinds of things for an RPG/book/etc before?

I know I'm not doing anything illegal, but I'm worried about losing possible job prospects for the future or drawing (illegal) persecution. I am aware of a few methods of trying to protect myself from pervasive surveillance, but I am unsure what the best approach actually is. I am fairly confident in my government's ability to easily bypass any attempts at cyberdefense I initiate and worry that using such measures may mark me as even more suspicious in modern society (sort of like using the 5th Amendment right to avoid self incrimination 'proving' you must be guilty). The four methods I am aware of for this are: Using Tor, using 'incognito mode' or what have you in a browser, using guest accounts on a chromebook, and only using publicly accessible computers. I need my end files to be run on my friend's computer, though, so (unless I make them use option 1 or 2, which I'd prefer not to do) none of these are particularly viable.

Alternatively, I could just avoid the specific kinds of prep work that may invoke the wrath of the government in favor of prep work that is less likely to bother them, but 1) I don't know if this is necessary, 2) I don't know what to avoid doing, and 3) the first option (having privacy) would be vastly preferable were it possible.

  • 4
    ..the land of the free and the home of the brave.. – Dropout Jan 8 '15 at 10:02
  • You could look at using Tor to conduct your research – Arlix Jan 8 '15 at 10:57
  • So you're running a campaign? What does that mean? Explain a bit more what you are actually doing or making or what you want to create. I know what RPG means, so I guess this is about games, but that is about it. – SPRBRN Jan 8 '15 at 11:13
  • 8
    Welcome to the chilling effect. Thanks to surveillance you are afraid of doing something completely legal because you are afraid that it might label you as a threat. – Philipp Jan 8 '15 at 12:09
  • 3
    The word RPG is definitely watched :P – Deer Hunter Jan 8 '15 at 14:28