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Sen. Al Franken questions Niantic over Poképrivacy policy

TechCrunch TechCrunch 12/07/2016 Devin Coldewey

Always with his finger on the pulse, Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) today sent an official request to Niantic asking about particulars of the Pokémon GO privacy policy.

“I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent,” the letter reads (PDF). “As the augmented reality market evolves, I ask that you provide greater clarity on how Niantic is addressing the issues of user privacy and security, particularly that of its younger players.”

The Senator touches on the Google Account “bug,” which was recently fixed (and, though I’m waiting to hear back from Google about this, may never have been as big a deal as we all made it), but also asks for specifics on several other items found in the terms of service and privacy policy:

  • What information Niantic collects is actually necessary for the game and its related services
  • To what other uses will this information be put, and with whom will it be shared (“exhaustively describe”)
  • Why Pokémon GO needs the permissions it asks for
  • Whether some of this collection be opt-in, instead of opt-out
  • How Niantic creates “meaningful consent” from parents regarding collection of the data their kids produce

I actually asked Niantic several times about these same issues yesterday but haven’t heard back yet — but I’m guessing Sen. Franken will have more luck.

The Senator is a reliable advocate for the progressive aspects of technology, but his office is also highly tuned in to potential violations of privacy by the likes of virtual reality, media services, and new platforms like Uber.

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