Pokemon GO Developer Answers Senate's Privacy Concerns

Six weeks after Senator Al Franken raised some privacy-related questions regarding Pokemon GO, Niantic Labs issued an elaborate defense of its mega-popular mobile game. More specifically, the studio's general counselor Courtney Greene Power wrote a letter to the Minnesota senator in which she explained that Pokemon GO collects location data because it couldn't function otherwise and stated that all of its players explicitly consent to give away that information that prior to starting the game. As for players under 13, their parents must specifically consent to the collection of their location data before they're allowed to play, explained Niantic.

Location data isn't the only type of information Pokemon GO gathers. The app is also registering the device it's played on and Niantic hinted that it may soon start collecting language preferences. All of this will be done so that the studio can guarantee an "appropriate user experience" to its players, though Niantic is yet to elaborate that statement. At the moment, Greene Power only revealed that the San Francisco-based developer is collecting data in order to prevent online abuse and improve the quality of the app.

As for general privacy concerns, Niantic's general counselor explicitly stated that the studio has zero intention of selling Pokemon GO user data in any way, shape, or form. However, she did admit that the developer is already sharing user data with certain analytics companies, adding that all of them are under strict confidentiality agreements and that Niantic will never share data from users under the age of 13, i.e. those who couldn't consent to give away that data on their own. That all may change in the future as Niantic is slowly starting to roll out Pokemon GO sponsored locations. More specifically, Greene Power explained that the developer "will provide certain reports to sponsors about visits and game actions". She did assure senator Franken that the data in question will be aggregated but the sole fact that paying for sponsored locations in Pokemon GO will also ensure access to certain user data still troubles the general public. Senator Franken is yet to comment on Niantic's response to his inquiry.

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