Pokémon GO ‘presents some unique challenges’

| August 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

pikachupolicecallWhat a difference 20 years makes!

Col. Shannon-Mikal Lucas
Director, Emergency Services
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, and
Commander, 8th Military Police Brigade,
8th Theater Sustainment Command


In 1995, the world was taken over by a new Japanese brand called Poketto Monsutā, or Pokémon for short. Pokémon became an international sensation, spawning cartoons, movies, trading cards, video games – you name it.

Advances in technology have led to the latest franchise release of the Pokémon brand in July 2016: “Pokémon Go.”

Within the first few weeks of its release, the mobile app was downloaded over 75 million times. The phenomenon was so great that that the release of the app had to be staggered internationally to address issues with the server capability to handle the usage.

By combining global positioning and camera functions on your smartphone, players of Pokémon Go can locate, capture, battle and train Pokémon in an amazingly realistic gameplay reality. By all accounts, the release of Pokémon Go marked a change in how augmented reality is incorporated into games.

From a law enforcement and security standpoint, Pokémon Go presents some unique challenges. We wanted to take a moment to discuss some of the concerns that we have seen with you in the month since this game was released.


Personal information

The terms-of-use agreement relinquishes access to the user’s email, address book, location and private personal information; it even allows access to – in some cases – your camera and microphone.

The safety of your personal information becomes contingent on the ability of the developer to secure it, as well as all those companies that the developer share it with. In addition, fake versions and download sites have popped up that contain malware used to steal personal information.


Public safety

There have been a number of incidents related to the use of the Pokémon Go. There have been reports of distracted driving resulting in accidents, distracted walking resulting in pedestrian deaths, trespassing on private property, and even manipulation of beacon locations used to rob game players and a fear that pedophiles or other predators may utilize the game to lure victims to secluded areas.


Military installations

Since Pokémon characters can be placed anywhere, there have been concerns regarding the placement of characters in restricted locations, such as airfields and restricted buildings. Hunting Pokémon creatures on military installations can also potentially leak audio or video in locations generally not seen by the public due to the activation of the camera and location services of the game. The Israeli military has actually banned the playing of the game on bases due to this concern.


While we are not trying to dissuade you from playing Pokémon Go – it is a rather cool-looking game – we are concerned that there are some issues that could have a negative impact on personal and public safety, and even potentially on installation security.

We are currently working with Niantic, the developer of the game, on how to minimize these issues on our installations. As for your personal safety and well-being, remember, never Pokémon Go while driving and always be aware of your surroundings.

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Category: News, Police Call, Standing Columns

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