Pokemon Go creators Niantic have responded to a letter from Senator Al Franken that questioned whether the popular game's privacy features were legal or moral. Niantic defended themselves for their use of location data because everyone agrees to terms and conditions and anyone under the age of 13 has to have parental consent.
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The controversy first started with Pokemon Go required full access and control over good accounts. Niantic said it was a bug and quickly resolved the problem. Still, questions remained which is why there was an inquiry by Senator Franken.
Niantic talked about the types of data it collects, giving us a pretty good inside look at what might come soon. This includes sponsored U.S. locations.
The Senator from Minnesota wanted Niantic to explain a few things about how the game works, including how much data will be shared, if it was necessary, and how parental consent was obtained. Location is a necessary piece of data for people to play, but there are some things like device type and language that seems unnecessary to some.
“Country is collected and stored, to provide a user the appropriate experience; language may be stored in future updates, for the same purpose,” Niantic general counsel Courtney Greene Power wrote in the letter to Sen. Franken. “The app collects certain information to facilitate important quality and stability objectives and to prevent abuse. This includes information such as mobile operating system, mobile device identifier, and hardware build information. This information is used to debug phone-specific game problems and to detect and deter cheating in the game.”
They go on to explain that anyone under 13 who tries to register will be directed to the website where their parent can then register them. There is a system of information so that the parent's identity can be confirmed.
The company also clarified third party data sharing: “Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokémon Go user data — aggregated, de-identified or otherwise — to any third party,” Power wrote. She then added that the data is shared with some marketing and analysis companies, but everything is confidential.
The sponsored locations do prove a problem for that, however. “As we continue to develop our sponsored locations program, we will provide certain reports to sponsors about visits and game actions (such as redeeming a promotion at the location), but those reports will contain aggregated data only,” the letter said.
Senator Franken has always been an advocate for privacy said that the response was good, but he needs more clarification:
“The launch of Pokémon Go earlier this summer represented a new era in gaming, but shortly after the app’s release, there were strong concerns about how it treats its users’ digital data,” he said in a statement. “I appreciate Niantic’s response, but I intend to work further with the company in the future to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to protect the privacy of Americans — particularly American children — who play Pokémon GO.”