Tag Archives: Big Brother

“Like most apps that work with the GPS in your smartphone, Pokémon Go can tell a lot of things about you based on your movement as you play: where you go, when you went there, how you got there, how long you stayed, and who else was there”

Here’s all the data Pokemon Go is collecting from your phone

In the five frenzied days since its American release, Pokémon Go has become an economic and cultural sensation. Downloaded by millions, the game has boosted Nintendo’s market value by $9 billion (and counting), made a major case for augmented reality as the gaming format of the future, and led to a plethora of strange, scary, and serendipitous real-life encounters.

And as millions of users wander the country collecting Pikachus and Jigglypuffs, the Alphabet spin-off Niantic, Inc. that developed the game is collecting information about the collectors. And it’s most definitely catching them all.

Like most apps that work with the GPS in your smartphone, Pokémon Go can tell a lot of things about you based on your movement as you play: where you go, when you went there, how you got there, how long you stayed, and who else was there. And, like many developers who build those apps, Niantic keeps that information.

According to the Pokémon Go privacy policy, Niantic may collect — among other things — your email address, IP address, the web page you were using before logging into Pokémon Go, your username, and your location. And if you use your Google account for sign-in and use an iOS device, unless you specifically revoke it, Niantic has access to your entire Google account. That means Niantic has read and write access to your email, Google Drive docs, and more. (It also means that if the Niantic servers are hacked, whoever hacked the servers would potentially have access to your entire Google account. And you can bet the game’s extreme popularity has made it a target for hackers. Given the number of children playing the game, that’s a scary thought.) You can check what kind of access Niantic has to your Google account here.

It also may share this information with other parties, including the Pokémon Company that co-developed the game, “third-party service providers,” and “third parties” to conduct “research and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes.” It also, per the policy, may share any information it collects with law enforcement in response to a legal claim, to protect its own interests, or stop “illegal, unethical, or legally actionable activity.”

Now, none of these privacy provisions are of themselves unique. Location-based apps from Foursquare to Tinder can and do similar things. But Pokémon Go’s incredibly granular, block-by-block map data, combined with its surging popularity, may soon make it one of, if not the most, detailed location-based social graphs ever compiled.

And it’s all, or mostly, in the hands of Niantic, a small augmented reality development company with serious Silicon Valley roots. The company’s origins trace back to the geospatial data visualization startup Keyhole, Inc., which Google acquired in 2004; it played a crucial role in the development of Google Earth and Google Maps. And though Niantic spun off from Alphabet late last year, Google’s parent company is still one of its a major investors, as is Nintendo, which owns a majority stake in The Pokémon Company. Indeed, Google still owned Niantic when the developer released its first game, Ingress, which is what Niantic used to pick the locations for Pokémon Go’s ubiquitous Pokéstops and gyms.

Citing CEO John Hanke’s travel plans, a representative from Niantic was not able to clarify to BuzzFeed News if the company will share location data with Alphabet or Nintendo. A Google representative forwarded BuzzFeed News’ request for comment to Niantic.

Given the fact that Pokémon Go already has millions of users and that it has already attracted the attention of law enforcement, it seems likely that at some point police will try to get Niantic to hand over user information. And if Google’s track record is any indication — a report earlier this year showed that the company complied with 78% of law enforcement requests for user data — they are probably prepared to cooperate.

Activists place party hats on surveillance cameras for George Orwell’s birthday…

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Via AP

To celebrate author George Orwell’s 110th birthday earlier this year, Dutch artists worked together to decorate surveillance cameras with party hats. The famed author’s classic dystopian novel 1984 warned about a future world where the government was obsessed with surveillance of its people.

The Dutch art duo Front 404 – Thomas voor ‘t Hekke and Bas van Oerle – thought that the hats would be a perfect birthday tribute to Orwell.

Surveillance cameras in the center of the city of Utrecht were decorated with colorful party hats and then photographed so the pair could post the pictures to their website and share them with the world. This creative form of activism quickly spread, and soon more party balloons and hats were attached to cameras along sidewalks and on street corners by others.

According to the artists, “By putting these happy party hats on the surveillance cameras we don’t just celebrate Orwell’s birthday. By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.”

Though this happened on June 25th, so far there have been few repercussions – no sign that the Ministry of Truth has tried to erase their pictures, no visit to Room 101 to re-educate the artists, and no denouncement from Big Brother. Yet.