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Niantic Responds To Senate Inquiry Into Pokemon Go Privacy (techcrunch.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: Senator Al Franken has questioned Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go, about how it handles user's information. He asked the company to explain several key details about how Pokemon Go works, including whether all the data collection was necessary, how data will be shared and how parental consent is obtained for kids who play the game. The game was under the spotlight soon after it launched when it was revealed that users had to provide the game full access and control over their Google accounts. Niantic general counsel Courtney Greene Power responded to Franken via a letter (PDF): "Country is collected and stored, to provide a user the appropriate experience; language may be stored in future updates, for the same purpose. The app collects certain information to facilitate important quality and stability objectives and to prevent abuse. This includes information such as mobile operating system, mobile device identifier, and hardware build information. This information is used to debug phone-specific game problems and to detect and deter cheating in the game. She went on to explain that players under 13 are redirected to the company's website when they register to play, where their parent must also register. Parents are then asked to verify their identity through third-party vendor, Veratad. "Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokemon Go user data -- aggregated, de-identified or otherwise -- to any third party," Power wrote. The company also adds that data is shared with mobile app analytics companies and with marketing and analysis companies, but these companies agreed to keep user data secure. The data shared with third parties does not include the data of users under 13, the company said, and no user data will be shared with investors. In response to the response, Sen. Franken said in a statement: "The launch of Pokemon Go earlier this summer represented a new era in gaming, but shortly after the app's release, there were strong concerns about how it treats its users' digital data. I appreciate Niantic's response, but I intend to work further with the company in the future to ensure that we're doing everything possible to protect the privacy of Americans -- particularly American children -- who play Pokemon Go."
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Niantic Responds To Senate Inquiry Into Pokemon Go Privacy

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  • by geek ( 5680 )

    They're good enough, smart enough and gosh darn it people like them?

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      It's the Pokeman Go decade.

      But seriously,

      "Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokemon Go user data -- aggregated, de-identified or otherwise -- to any third party," Power wrote. The company also adds that data is shared with mobile app analytics companies and with marketing and analysis companies,

      So, they do in fact provide user data to third parties. It's laughable to think they don't "sell" (i.e. derive financial benefit) it to them and simply provide it free.

      • Or they are using 3rd party service providers to analyse their data in ways that they are neither capable or experienced in for internal use. In exactly the same way that you provide you banks statements and receipts to your accountant.

      • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @06:40AM (#52814043)

        "Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokemon Go user data -- aggregated, de-identified or otherwise -- to any third party

        And then in small-print. These terms are subject to change as soon as we get a good enough offer.

        • They can't exactly say "we have no plans now, but hey, if someone offers us a truck load of money...". However, if they really wanted to engender some trust, they could (probably) say "we have no plans to sell any data, and we will never sell any data from 2016".

          But sadly, expecting any commitment is like expecting a unicorn to shit out your next gourmet dinner ;-)

  • PGo better 'pony up' some re-election funds. this was just a shot over the bow.
  • It's all about getting your face on the nightly news. That's why they "Never let a crisis go to waste" and ALWAYS try to associate themselves some way to something that's popular.

    This is just a shameless "Hey, look at me!" ploy by a politician looking for attention during an election season. Go away Al, you are not up this time...

    • He wrote a letter (Score:5, Informative)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @08:00PM (#52812173) Journal

      Interesting that the headline says Franken "questioned" Niantic (which sounds like the name of a drug for erectile dysfunction, by the way). In fact, what he did was send them a letter, with these (quite reasonable) questions. In fact, these are issues that are brought up daily by users here on Slashdot:

      1. Pokemon GO has stated that it collects a broad array of users' personal information,
      including but not limited to a user's profile and account information, their precise
      location data, and information obtained through Cookies and Web Beacons. Can you
      explain exactly which information collected by Pokemon GO is necessary for the
      provision or improvement of services? Are there any other purposes for which Pokemon
      GO collects all of this information?
      2. According to reports, Pokemon GO also requests permission to access a number of
      mobile capabilities, including but not limited to the ability to control vibration on a
      phone, prevent the phone from sleeping, and find contact accounts on the device. Can
      you explain exactly which features and capabilities are necessary for Pokemon GO to
      access for the provision or improvement of services? Are there any other purposes for
      which Pokemon GO has access to all of these features and capabilities?
      3. If, in fact, some of the information collected and/or permissions requested by Pokemon
      GO are unnecessary for the provision of services, would Niantic consider making this
      collection/access opf-in, as opposed to requiring a user to opt-out of the
      collection/access?
      4. Pokemon GO has stated that users' information can be shared with The Pokemon
      Company and "third party service providers". Can you provide a list of current service
      providers? Does Pokemon GO also share users' information with investors in Pokemon
      GO?
      5. Pokemon GO has further indicated that it shares de-identified and aggregate data with
      other third parties for a multitude of purposes. Can you more exhaustively describe the
      purposes for which Pokemon GO would share or sell such data?
      6. Can you describe how Niantic ensures parents provide meaningful consent for their
      child's use ofPokemon GO and thus the collection of their child's personal information?
      Apart from publicly available privacy policies, how does Niantic inform parents about
      how their child's information is collected and used?
      7. According to reports, signing into Pokemon GO on iOS through a user's Google account
      gives Niantic full access to an individual's Google account without the user's knowledge.
      Niantic has since recognized that it erroneously asked for more permissions than it
      intended. Can you provide an update on any fix Niantic is seeking to correct this mistake?
      Also, please confirm that Niantic never collected or stored any information it gained
      access to as a result of this mistake.

      Considering the happy horseshit the US Congress has been doing for the past 6 years, I'm not sure this isn't a case of an elected official actually doing his job. Maybe that's why it seems so unusual.

      Oh, and here's the full text of Franken's letter:

      http://www.franken.senate.gov/... [senate.gov]

      • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld@gm a i l . c om> on Thursday September 01, 2016 @10:20PM (#52812759) Homepage
        "In fact, these are issues that are brought up daily by users here on Slashdot:"

        Eh, Slashdotters hate politicians, especially Democratic politicians. If they don't do X they're useless, if they do do X they're only doing it for the wrong reasons, etc. etc..
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Niantic (which sounds like the name of a drug for erectile dysfunction, by the way)

        It's the name of a town in Connecticut, as well as the Native American people for which it was named.

      • "Doing his job" ? Perhaps, but that's what he's paid for. Getting public exposure in the process? Excellent... Getting paid, doing your job AND getting in the public eye? Priceless come the next election.

  • This coming from a senator who used to wear a satellite dish on his head. I'd like to know if he was collecting data from aliens with that thing.
    • This coming from a senator who used to wear a satellite dish on his head. I'd like to know if he was collecting data from aliens with that thing.

      I think that whatever a politician has worn on his head in the past has now been surpassed by the headwear of one of the current presidential candidates.

      All pre-2016 jokes about a politician wearing something ridiculous on their head have now been rendered null and void by reality.

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        Does looking like a freakish oompa-loompa count as something ridiculous on the head? I think it ought to.
  • Umm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2016 @06:59PM (#52811861)

    >"Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokemon Go user data -- aggregated, de-identified or otherwise -- to any third party," Power wrote. The company also adds that data is shared with mobile app analytics companies and with marketing and analysis companies

    We're not selling your personal info, we're selling ad space on your phone to marketers who have chosen to advertise to you based on your personal info which we gave them for free.

    Totally different.

    • >"Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokemon Go user data -- aggregated, de-identified or otherwise -- to any third party," Power wrote. The company also adds that data is shared with mobile app analytics companies and with marketing and analysis companies

      We're not selling your personal info, we're selling ad space on your phone to marketers who have chosen to advertise to you based on your personal info which we gave them for free.

      Totally different.

      Ah, there we go. I was wondering why they'd give away the milk instead of selling it...well spotted!

    • > We're not selling your personal info, we're selling ad space on your phone to marketers who have chosen to advertise to you based on your personal info which we gave them for free.

      Actually it is. There's MILES of difference between saying :

      "Hey, you want to sell to a particular group of people who we know of, give us some money and we'll give you a list of people to talk to"

      and

      "Hey, you want to sell to a particular group of people who we know of, give us some money and an ad you want them to see and w

    • That's not necessarily true. They could be asking those companies to analyze the data for Niantic's own internal use - trying to understand what demographics they're appealing to, etc.
  • by BlackSupra ( 742450 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @07:18PM (#52811957)

    "Niantic does not ... sell Pokemon Go user data...to any third party,"....

    ...data is shared with mobile app analytics companies[,] marketing [companies,] and analysis companies....

    Data is shared, not sold.

    • Data is shared, not sold.

      Exactly! Just like how those same companies are not paying for the data, they are donations!

      (I jest of course, I have no idea if that's happening. My point is one about evaluating behaviors of companies in spirit and not just on technicalities)

    • I believe Niantic have about 30 employees. Those employees will predominately be developers of their various games and skilled in that type of work. What they are probably not very good at is detailed data analytics.

      So what do you do if you're a business and you need a skillset and toolset that you don't have and you need? You hire another business that provides the skillset and toolset that you need. Just like hiring a plumber.

      So I don't read this as them giving the data away at all. I read this as "w

    • Good point. I would add another bit of lawyer speak - Niantic 'does not have plans' to sell personal info in the future which does not mean 'we will not sell' but means 'we could make plans to sell'
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday September 01, 2016 @07:30PM (#52812015) Homepage

    full access and control over their Google accounts.

    FYI: That only applies to the iPhone version of the app. I run the android app, and it never asked for any such permission. I don't even login to the game with my Google account. If I go to the "Apps connected to your Google account" it currently displays "You haven't granted any apps or websites access to your Google Account."

    Does the OS X version require a Google account? Can't you login with a Pokemon Trainer account like you can on Android?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It was a "bug" at launch on iOS. After it was announced in a lot of "omg the world is ending" news articles it was promptly fixed.

  • We need more comedians in political offices. They help offset the drama.

  • Senator Franken probably had no plans to create the most extensive surveillance network of innocent people in human history, but he's doing everything in his power to keep it going. ALL YOUR DATA ARE BELONG TO US.

Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?

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