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Pokemon Go – Conspiracy Theorists Alarmed By Data Sharing

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It’s been a big week for Nintendo – the resurrection of Pokémon as an augmented reality mobile game has grabbed the world, crashing servers and flooding streets with children (and a significant number of adults) trying to catch ‘em all.

Not everyone trusts Pokémon Go, though. The permissions users give up to install the app have led to suspicions, suspicions which are heightened by the connections of developer Niantic to United States intelligence agencies and Google. Both organisations’ hunger for masses of data are well documented.

All mobile applications require some permissions when being installed, which enable the software to run smoothly – Instagram needs to be allowed to access your device’s gallery for example.

Pokémon Go necessarily needs to access the camera and GPS of a device for the game to work. But when you consider that Niantic is backed by Google, the rest of the privacy policy makes for uncomfortable reading.

For example, Niantic may share “aggregated information and non-identifying information with third parties for research and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes,” as well as the more Orwellian permission to share the information “to government or law enforcement officials or private parties as we, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate: (a) to respond to claims, legal process (including subpoenas); (b) to protect our property, rights, and safety and the property, rights, and safety of a third party or the public in general; and (c) to identify and stop any activity that we consider illegal, unethical, or legally actionable activity.”

This is a massive amount of information about every user – including children under the age of 13, who need parental authorisation to play the game.

Every photo from Pokémon Go is sent back to a database with GPS coordinates and orientation. With access to information like this, the owner has a record of what’s going on wherever people are hunting down Pokémon – and seeing as the US Holocaust Museum in Washington has had to ask visitors to refrain from catching Pokémon on its premises, it seems there are few places that won’t be mapped soon.

Niantic was founded by John Hanke, who also founded a company called Keyhole – which received funding from the US Government’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

We’re not saying that Pokémon Go is a government tool to keep track of the population. But we’re not saying it isn’t, either!

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