Pokémon Go emerged as the “it” casual game a couple of years ago, and held the throne for a short while – earnestly promoted by the friendly “tech” media outlets, and spreading like any fad – or virus, or wildfire, might do – before it subsided and got out of the headlines.
It’s now 2019 and the Pokémon Go craze, at least the hype taking place in the public eye, is long gone. But at what price, other than the obvious monetary one – to those gamers who were once, or still are, by means of their personal data, involved in Pokemon Go?
Well, at least Niantic – the US developer/publisher – is now looking at releasing other likely blockbusters – and, “protecting its IP” – and is very much active.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game for mobile operating systems launched in 2016, that almost concurrently with its meteoric rise, raised concerns about data collection and privacy of its users.
Described as “a location-based game” – it works by allowing Niantic to monitor and collect gamers’ data and movements – as they chase after the “augmented reality” superimposed items, in globally distributed locations.
And even before Pokemon Go ever pretended to be a multiplayer game – it controversially asked users for permission to access all their contacts on Android. The game also asked iOS users for full access to their Google account.
You don’t have to play the game to know that this amounts to a whole lot of personal data being tracked persistently by one company and its servers – namely Niantic.
A recent lawsuit – Niantic, that is, suing another entity for IP infringement – brought to the fore the way the case inadvertently poked holes in the European Union’s crown privacy jewel – the GDPR.
In June this year, Niantic sued Global++ for breaching their IP, Business Insider reported.
But this lawsuit has brought to light much more than hacker ingenuity or corporate hunger: namely, it transpired that EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – touted as the role model for the rest of the world – can’t really protect citizens – in case there’s ongoing litigation.
Namely, when Pokemon Go users contact Niantic to retrieve their personal data or shut down their account – options that GDPR allegedly provides – this is the reply they get from Niantic:
“You are receiving this email because you have submitted a request for your Pokemon Go account to be deleted. We are writing to inform you that we have been unable to process your request because, in connection with pending litigation, Niantic currently has a legal obligation to retain certain information pertaining to some of its products and features, which includes some US player account information. Your support ticket has been closed. We recommend that you check back in periodically to know whether we can accept your deletion request in the future. Please know that we are unable to offer any further information regarding this topic at this time.”
When reached for comment – Niantic had none.