Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pokémon's Power, and Privacy Concerns

  • Last week, a Niantic Lab blog post said “Niantic set out on a path to change the way people interact with the world around them by creating the world’s first “real world gaming” platform. By exploiting the capabilities of smartphones and location technology and through building a unique massively scalable server and global location dataset, we have helped users all around the world have fun, socialize, and get more fit as they play and explore … We are pleased to announce that Pokémon GO, the next evolution of Real World Gaming, is now officially available on both the App Store and on Google Play Store in AustraliaNew Zealand and the United States. It will be available in other countries around the world in the days ahead.” 
  • Separately,  U.S. Senator Al Franken sent a letter to Niantic, Inc. CEO John Hanke that said “I am writing to request information about Niantic s recently released augmented reality app, Pokemon GO, which - in less than a week's time - has been downloaded approximately 7.5 million times in the United States alone. While this release is undoubtedly impressive, I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users' personal information without their appropriate consent. I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right includes an individual's access to information, as well as the ability to make meaningful choices, about what data are being collected about them and how the data are being used. As the augmented reality market evolves, I ask that you provide greater clarity on how Niantic is addressing issues of user privacy and security, particularly that of its younger players.” Note: Global downloads exceed 15 million

  • Niantic, Inc. was spun out of Google in October 2015 in partnership with Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company. While Pokémon GO is based on technology from Niantic’s sci-fi game Ingress (released in 2012), it is likely that the power of the Pokémon franchise is driving its broad global adoption.
  • Regarding Senator Franken’s letter, his privacy concerns more broadly apply to many other on-line playerspayment service providers and others in the commerce supply chain.
  • While Pokémon GO is viewed as an augmented reality market breakthrough, the augmented and virtual reality markets will continue to experience significant innovation.  

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