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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/12/16

Is Pokemon Go Really Posing a Global Threat to National Securities?

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Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go
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Computer games have always spawned debate since they emerged on the technological landscape. But no other computer game has stirred such fierce controversy in such a short span of time as the popular gaming app Pokemon Go.

Since the app's release last month, Pokemon Go mania has become a global epidemic with 100 million downloads and piles of headlines appearing in the mainstream media outlets. Pokemon Go is an "augmented reality" computer game which drives users to search cute fictional characters in the real world environment. All one needs to go manic is as little as an Android or an IOS running device with a built-in GPS and the zest to explore the world and there you go!

Launched by an ex-Google startup Niantic Labs and backed by the Japanese gaming pioneer Nintendo, the augmented reality game has set the world on fire since its launch: Players getting robbed on the road; emergency call-outs to report girls seen chasing virtual creatures in rough sea s; helicopters tracking erratic drivers lost in playing the game; enthusiasts hiking 100's of kilometers to catch all 143 Pokemon characters; conservative Iran banning the app because of security concerns and now Hollywood celebrities like Oliver Stone linking the app with geopolitical conspiracies.

Despite frequent technical issues like server failures, Pokemon Go quickly stormed the world as one of the most used mobile apps, and rapidly taking over 'Tinder' and 'Snap Chat' and replacing 'porn' as the most widely searched Google term.

One major apprehension about Pokemon is its security implication regarding the games focus on visiting real-world locations ie landmarks and private properties. While online petitions to remove Pokemon characters from the landmarks are attracting thousands of supporters, enraged property owners are asking to have their locations removed as PokeStops.

The game certainly poses a threat of sorts to the national security as the app collects real-time data through smartphones and GPS technology that includes coordinates of the precise locations like government and military installations.(Please check up just last week CIA has imposed restrictions on use of this app in vicinity of strategic weapon locations -- I saw in newspaper which i can't find now.)

The app has raised concerns over claims that it can access a user's entire Google account, including email and passwords. While Niantic reassured users, it noticeably stopped short of denying the accusation --with the understatement the privacy breach was unintentional.

But the most eccentric statement arrived from the Hollywood film director Oliver Stone who branded the app as "a new level of invasion" and "surveillance capitalism." Stone, who has won an Oscar for best director, was talking at the promotion of his new film Snowden based on the life of the legendary NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The film has been turned down by major film studios forcing Stone to find finance in France and Germany.

It is noteworthy that the privacy policy of the app states that Niantic will share all the information they gather with the state and private organizations. According to James Corbett, an independent analyst based in Japan, The Pokemon Go app is doing what the patriot Act can't.

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Tazeen Hasan Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Tazeen Hasan is a Research Fellow and campaign lead against arbitrary detentions at Justice For All Canada, a global human rights advocacy group working for a just and Genocide free world.

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