Senator Al Franken Has Some Questions For Niantic

Pokemon GO has garnered over 7.5 million app installs during its inaugural week or so, but the immense popularity has not been without its dark side. Stories abound of strange things happening, like robbers using the app to target players, but there are also privacy concerns. On iOS, the app was able to see everything in a user's Google account at launch, if it was used to log on. While that has since been fixed, other concerns still exist. The app gathers a huge amount of data and is not entirely clear on where it all goes in the privacy policy, saying that it can disclose some data to third parties, and that sets of aggregated, de-identified data can be disclosed freely. Long a champion of internet privacy, US Senator Al Franken has a problem with that.

In a letter to Niantic CEO John Hanke, Franken brings up seven key questions based on some concerns found in the privacy policy and in recent media coverage of the app. First, he addresses data collected from cookies and web beacons, asking what data is collected and how it is used. The second point he brings up is the device permissions used by the app, asking which are necessary, how they are used, and if there are any secondary purposes to the use of those permissions. Franken's third question involves asking Niantic to make any unnecessary collection and permissions opt-in, instead of the current opt-out model. In the fourth question, Franken refers to "third-party service providers" in the privacy policy, and asks for a list of these providers and why they get the data. The fifth question is on the de-identified and aggregated data, where it goes, and how it's used.

The sixth question focuses in on the issue that is garnering some special concern; the fact that most of the game's audience is children. Franken asks how parents are being informed of their kids' data being collected and used. He winds down the letter by asking about the debacle with the iOS permissions for users' Google accounts, and asks Niantic to confirm that the issue has been fixed and no data was collected or stored. He also asks that Niantic continue to work on improving user privacy within the app.

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Daniel Fuller

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, voice assistants, AI technology development, and hot gaming news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]