You know that bug we mentioned the other day with Pokémon Go on the iPhone that causes it to get full access to all your Google data and Gmail without asking permission? That, along with some shady language in the app's terms and conditions with regard to child users, has now prompted Senator Al Franken, who is the senior Democrat on the Senate Privacy and Technology Subcommittee, to pen an open letter to Niantic, the Google-affiliated creators of the wildly popular app, asking for a swift response to these concerns and others. "As the augmented reality market evolves," Franken writes, "I ask that you provide greater clarity on how Niantic is addressing issues of user privacy and security, particularly that of its younger players."
The Pokémon Go app has yet to be updated to address the issue of it granting full access to one's Google account in iOS something that it does not do on Android phones. "We recognize and commend Niantic for quickly responding to these specific concerns, and ask for continued assurance that a fix will be implemented swiftly," says Franken.
Gawker's Black Bag blog pointed the other day, as well, to some highly Orwellian language in the terms and conditions of the app that says, "We may disclose any information about you (or your authorized child) that is in our possession or control to government or law enforcement officials or private parties as we, in our sole discretion, deem necessary or appropriate..." including "to identify and stop any activity that we consider illegal, unethical, or legally actionable activity." This led Black Bag to suggest that the whole app could be a "government surveillance psy-ops conspiracy."
Also, there are broad permissions that a user gives with regard to data collection, and Franken rightly questions the purpose of these. "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?"
Franken presents that among a list of seven questions he'd like answers to by August 12, and he's also asking what third parties Niantic might be sharing users' data, and de-identified and aggregate data with, and why.
As CNet tells us, "The app has been downloaded about 7.5 million times in the US, providing $1.6 million in daily revenue from iOS devices alone."
Meanwhile, if the government or Niantic staff would like to know where state senatorial candidates Jane Kim and Scott Wiener are at this precise moment, they can: The two have agreed to play Pokémon Go against each other, which isn't pandering for the Millennial vote at all. Also, don't they have more important things to be doing?