Al Franken Wants to Stop Pokémon Go From Sharing Your Private Information with 'Third Party Service Providers'

Human Rights

On Tuesday, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota sent a letter to Niantic Inc, the company responsible for Pokémon Go, issuing a list of requests regarding information on the wildly popular app’s rather dubious privacy settings.

For those who may have switched off their Internet this past week, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality app where you catch the fictional creatures made popular by the card game and TV series from the 90s. Unlike most apps, Pokemon Go involves leaving the house, and it has already been downloaded 7.5 million times, almost overtaking Twitter in users. Oh, and it also asks new user to provide “all access” to their Google accounts upon download. Enter Franken.

“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,” Franken wrote in his letter to company CEO John Hanke. Franken then asked Hanke to provide information regarding the “third-party service providers” Niantic shares their user information with and the company’s reasons for doing so.

Niantic is in hot water for this specific issue due to the nature of their request for full access. In general when users are asked to sign up with their Google or Facebook accounts, the app makes it clear they are only requesting limited information. Niantic’s privacy policy in contrast would allow access to a user’s entire google account, including their gmail.

There have been some reports that the issue is one of poor wording on the part of Ninatic Inc., but Franken (who sits on the Senate subcommittee on privacy, technology, and the law) is taking no chances.

Franken pointed out that while the app does in fact allow users the option to “opt-out” of sharing their information, this is not the default setting. Given this fact, Franken issued his letter to Hanke noting, “we must ensure that Americans'—especially children's—very sensitive information is protected."

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