Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, responded at the moment to a letter from Sen. Al Franken that questioned the wildly fashionable recreation’s privacy features. Niantic defended the sport’s use of gamers’ location knowledge and defined the way it collects consent from the mother and father of gamers underneath the age of 13.
Niantic additionally described the kinds of knowledge it collects from gamers, and hinted at what knowledge it’d scrape up in future releases of the app. The corporate is presently working to roll out sponsored locations within the U.S., which increase new questions on consumer privacy.
Pokémon Go kicked up controversy quickly after its launch, when some gamers utilizing iOS observed that the sport required full access and control over their Google accounts. Niantic blamed a bug and the difficulty was shortly resolved, however questions on how a lot the app invades customers’ privacy remained and finally led to the inquiry by Sen. Franken.
The Minnesota senator requested Niantic to clarify a number of key particulars about how Pokémon Go works, together with whether or not all the info assortment was needed, how knowledge might be shared, and the way parental consent is obtained for teenagers who play the sport.
In fact, location knowledge is important for the sport to perform — gamers catch pokémon and go to pokéstops which are close by, so the app has to know the place they’re. However the app additionally gathers details about the device the participant is utilizing, and Niantic says it’d quickly gather details about the consumer’s language preferences.
“Nation is collected and saved, to present a consumer the suitable expertise; language could also be saved in future updates, for a similar function,” Niantic common counsel Courtney Greene Energy wrote within the letter to Sen. Franken (PDF). “The app collects sure info to facilitate necessary high quality and stability aims and to forestall abuse. This consists of info akin to mobile working system, mobile device identifier, and hardware construct info. This info is used to debug phone-particular recreation issues and to detect and deter dishonest within the recreation.”
Niantic defined that gamers underneath 13 are redirected to the corporate’s web site once they register to play, the place their father or mother should additionally register. Mother and father are requested to present a number of particulars to confirm their id, together with the sum of the primary and final digit of their Social Security quantity, identify, birthdate, and bodily tackle. The verification course of is dealt with by a 3rd-celebration vendor, Veratad, and Niantic says it doesn’t obtain any of the mother and father’ verification info.
The corporate additionally clarified how and why it shares knowledge with third events.
“Niantic doesn’t and has no plans to promote Pokemon Go consumer knowledge — aggregated, de-recognized or in any other case — to any third social gathering,” Energy wrote. She added that knowledge is shared with mobile app analytics corporations and with advertising and evaluation corporations, however that these corporations are underneath confidentiality agreements to hold consumer knowledge safe. Consumer knowledge shared with third events doesn’t embrace the info of customers beneath 13, the corporate stated, and no consumer knowledge shall be shared with buyers.
Nevertheless, the plan not to promote consumer knowledge might quickly be confronted with a hiccup as Niantic begins rolling out sponsored places within the recreation. “As we proceed to develop our sponsored places program, we’ll present sure studies to sponsors about visits and recreation actions (corresponding to redeeming a promotion on the location), however these studies will include aggregated knowledge solely,” the letter stated.
Sen. Franken, who has been a staunch advocate for privacy points and heads the Senate Privacy and Know-how Subcommittee, stated that Niantic’s response to his questions was complete however that he needs the corporate to additional make clear its privacy insurance policies.
“The launch of Pokémon Go earlier this summer time represented a new period in gaming, however shortly after the app’s launch, there have been robust considerations about the way it treats its customers’ digital knowledge,” Sen. Franken stated in a press release. “I respect Niantic’s response, however I intend to work additional with the corporate sooner or later to be sure that we’re doing the whole lot attainable to shield the privacy of People—notably American youngsters—who play Pokémon GO.”
Featured Picture: Bryce Durbin