Privacy Commissioner quizzes Pokémon Go creator

The augmented reality smartphone game launched earlier this month

Timothy Pilgrim (right) and a Zubat (left). Image credit: OAIC

Timothy Pilgrim (right) and a Zubat (left). Image credit: OAIC

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim says that he has “made enquiries” with Pokémon Go developer Niantic to ensure “the personal information of users is being managed in accordance with the Australian Privacy Act”.

The augmented reality smartphone game launched this month and has already proved a smash hit for Niantic and the owner of the Pokémon IP (and the app’s publisher), The Pokémon Company.

The game, available on the Android and iOS platforms, was at the centre of privacy concerns after people noted that its installation required full access to a user’s Google account. Niantic said the breadth of permissions sought by the app were an oversight and after an update to Pokémon Go it requires only limited access to Google account data.

The game relies on a mobile device’s camera for its augmented reality function and employs device location features to track a user’s real-world movement.

“I am aware of recent media reports of the Pokémon GO app accessing a significant amount of users’ personal information,” Pilgrim said in a statement.

“This is a timely reminder that people need to read the privacy policies of all smartphone apps before signing up,” the Privacy Commissioner said. “This way people can make an informed decision about if they want to use an app.”

Malware monitoring company RiskIQ has warned of [[artnid: 603405 |knock-off and unofficial Pokémon apps]] attempting to cash in on the game’s success. Many of the apps appear to gather more information than they should require, the company said.

Niantic was originally an internal Google startup. Its first title, Ingress, was based on the real-world gaming platform now employed in Pokémon Go.

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The company was spun out of Google and became an independent company, in October last year revealing that the Pokémon Company, Google and Nintendo were investing US$20 million in the startup.

Last week the company announced that Pokémon Go had launched in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, ahead of its launch in other international markets, and was available in the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

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