US Senator Al Franken troubled over Pokemon Go's privacy issues

Senator Franken wrote a letter to Niantic expressing concern over how Niantic collects and uses information gathered from the game.

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United States Senator Al Franken continues to clamp down on privacy issues in technology. In a letter dated yesterday (via GameSpot), he raised several issues to Niantic Labs CEO John Hanke expressing concern over how Pokemon Go may or may not use information gleaned from users as they play the game.

Franken opens by pointing out that over 7 million users have downloaded the game during its first week of availability across iOS and Android devices. He states his belief that Americans have a right to keep personal information private, and that extends to choosing how companies gather data from technology such as hardware and video games.

His primary concern is that, while Pokemon Go allows users to opt out of sharing their precise location and other data, the game doesn't make this clear. "When done appropriately, the collection and use of personal information may enhance consumers' augmented reality experience, but we must ensure that Americans'—especially children's—very sensitive information is protected."

Franken gave credit where credit was due. He commended Hanke and his team for correcting the app's permission to access all of a user's Google account on iOS devices. However, he did ask Niantic's CEO to consider several questions and provide answers by August 12.

Those questions, in short:

1) What information does Pokemon Go collect, and why does it need that info?

2) What game features require user info in order to function, and are there any other purposes not disclosed by Niantic?

3) Would Niantic consider making non-integral data optional via an opt-in/opt-out choice on the user's part?

4) With what service providers does Niantic share information gathered from Pokemon Go, and does the company also share user data with the game's investors?

5) Can Niantic explain the purposes for which it share user data with third parties?

6) How does the company ensure that parents provide consent for their children to use the game, and how does it inform parents that their children's information is being collected?

7) Would the company please explain how it went about fixing the mistake that gave its game full access to a user's Google account, as well as confirm that no additional information was collected due to this flaw?

Senator Franken's full letter is available for viewing. Back in April, the senator penned a similar missive to Oculus in regards to privacy concerns raised by use of Oculus Rift.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 13, 2016 4:56 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, US Senator troubled over Pokemon Go's privacy issues

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      July 13, 2016 5:02 PM

      I'm glad he is still doing this. Last I read about was Oculus and some face recognition app

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      July 13, 2016 10:09 PM

      I'd mention Al Franken's name in the headline. His name may not mean much to you, but I wouldn't have skipped reading this had I known it was him. Instead, I read this story over on BoingBoing.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Franken

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        July 13, 2016 10:18 PM

        It's not the crusade I expected him to take up when he ran for Senate, but I'm glad he's doing something valuable with his time serving.

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          July 14, 2016 4:38 AM

          Yeah, I appreciate this cause. It's germane to this era, and it has merit, which one can't say about most of the crusades politicians wage against games and technology.

      • reply
        July 13, 2016 10:28 PM

        Yea, just in terms of SEO, including Al Franken's name in the headline is a good idea.

      • reply
        July 14, 2016 4:36 AM

        Great suggestion! Changed.

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      July 14, 2016 7:48 AM

      What I like is that he or his interns or whatever did their research. I didn't watch the video, but from the quoted stuff I'm glad he didn't put a tinfoil hat on like the rest of the guys do.

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