Know Before You Pokémon Go

Know Before You Pokémon…

Pokémon Go does not seem particularly dangerous – players catching cartoon characters via their smartphones. The geocaching game allows people to find and capture Pokémon characters at various, real-world locations. This augmented reality platform blends a digital world with the real world that we navigate daily while going about our lives. This means legal implications abound, for players and non-players alike.

Law enforcement agencies have reported that criminals are using the game to lure victims. Players have found themselves at Pokéstops that are in dark alleys and other, unfamiliar locations. The game alerts strangers to other players’ locations and thus people are targeted and unsuspectingly become victims of crimes such as robberies and worse. Parents are advised to check sex offender registries for areas where their children may be going while playing the game. Players may find themselves in otherwise unfortunate situations: a homeowner reportedly shot at two teens playing Pokémon Go mistakenly thinking they were thieves after hearing one of the teens say, “Did you get anything?”

Other reported incidents:

  • A local fire department rescued four teens who became trapped in the Box Mines in Hawthorn, U.K.
  • A local Milford man with a warrant out for his arrest ended up at police station because it was a gym location for the game. The officers recognized the man and arrested him on the spot.
  • In California, two men became distracted and fell off a 75-foot cliff while playing Pokémon Go. A rope team had to be called in to rescue one of the men.

Police departments are advising players to pay attention where they walk and avoid driving while playing. This means the game can be a danger to all, whether playing the game or not. Highly distracted individuals are out in public playing the game with real-world implications. Non-players may find players trespassing on their private property or not paying attention as they step into the street. Pokémon Go may be involved in injury lawsuits to come and television commercials like this: “If you have been injured playing Pokémon Go or have been the subject of an injury by a Pokémon Go player, talk to a lawyer by calling the number on your screen.”

Hackers are also taking advantage of the Pokémon phenomenon. Some users are finding they downloaded a fake version of the game, complete with malware. The terms of use for the authentic version, however, are not for the faint of heart. Pokémon Go is GPS-based, so it’s constantly tracking each user’s location when in use. Its privacy policy allows the sharing of “aggregated information and non-identifying information with third parties for research and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes.” The policy further allows user information, including that of children, to be turned over 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 makes it easy for the company, private parties, or the government to track any user of interest. At the very least, Pokémon Go is major privacy risk.

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