The CIA's 'Pokémon Go' App is Doing What the Patriot Act Can't

07/14/201619 Comments

amashtweetby James Corbett
July 13, 2016

Privacy advocates (that's establishment speak for "normal human beings") celebrated earlier this week as the House rejected yet another attempt to expand the Patriot Act's snooping provisions. House Resolution 5606, better known by its Orwellian name, the "Anti-terrorism Information Sharing is Strength Act," would have allowed Big Brother to access Americans' financial information based on what the government deems to be "suspicious activity." Given that the DHS has labeled such things as using binoculars, paying with cash, or even "appearing normal" as "possible terrorist activity" in the past (thus making pretty much every human being a possible terrorist), everyone can breathe a sigh of relief that the bill failed.

But don't breathe that sigh too deeply, because exactly as that threat to privacy was being extinguished, another one was rising to take its place. It goes by the name of "Pokémon Go" and it is a so-called "augmented reality" game that allows users to capture, train and battle virtual Pokémon by chasing them around through real world environments with your smart phone.

pokemongoFull disclosure: Although I live in the land of anime and video games, I have never played any Pokémon games, watched any of the shows, read any of the comics or bought any of the toys associated with the franchise. I don't know anything about it except for the name of that ubiquitous yellow Pikachu character. So if you are an out-of-touch fuddy-duddy like me, you may be surprised to learn that the "Pokémon Go" app, launched just one week ago, is the hottest thing on the planet right now.

To put into perspective just how popular this game is, it topped the App Store's "Top Grossing" category within 24 hours of its release. Now, just one week out, it has been downloaded an estimated 7.5 million times in the US alone and is generating an estimated $1.6 million a day for Nintendo. But here's the truly mind-boggling part: In just the first two trading days after the game's release, Nintendo's market value rose a staggering $7.5 billion. That's right, folks, this is not merely a game, it is a phenomenon.

For those unfamiliar with "augmented reality" gaming, it's a type of game where one tracks virtual characters or objects that appear on their smart phones through real world environments. The Pokémon Go game is prompting scores of people out into the streets to go chasing for wild Pokémon to capture.

It is also prompting heists, violence, hoaxes and hysteria.

pokemonilluminatiOn the more innocuous side, some restaurants and businesses are already trying to cash in on their proximity to spots with a lot of in-game activity. On the less innocuous side, robbers are now using "Lures" (which attract Pokémon to a certain spot) to lure gamers in to be mugged. One 19-year-old hunting for water Pokémon in a rural river ended up uncovering a dead body, one IT executive got fired from his job after an online Facebook tirade inspired by frustration at the game, and one YouTuber who was live streaming the game while out Ubering allegedly saw someone get murdered right in front of him...but that turned out to be a hoax.

If you're wondering what's going on here, you're not the only one. It seems the internet is flipping its collective lid over this app as the line between gaming and the real world gets blurrier. But perhaps all of this pales in comparison to the game's terms and conditions.

Firstly, the app requires an excessive amount of permissions on a user's device, including the ability to read your contacts, find accounts on your device, and access your camera. The app even requires full access to a user's Google account, which it can then use to read your emails, send emails from your account, browse your Google Drive documents and photos, etc. But apparently that's just "a mistake" and will be "corrected soon."

Secondly, the game's privacy policy contains such gems as: "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." What could go wrong?

But wait, it gets worse!

pokemonciaThe maker of the app? Niantic Labs. Never heard of them? That's because until last year they were an internal start-up of none other than Google, the NSA-linked Big Brother company. Even now Google remains one of Niantic's major backers. Niantic was founded by John Hanke, who also founded Keyhole, Inc., the mapping company which was created with seed money from In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital arm, and which was eventually rolled into Google Maps.

So yes, the Pokémon game currently taking the internet by storm (and scooping up all their data, including activities, movements and communications) was created by a CIA-linked businessman who gestated his company at Google.

Feeling safe yet?

As it turns out, the big, bad Big Brother Spies of the NSA and the DHS and the CIA don't really need their Patriot Act powers, after all. All the powers-that-shouldn't-be need to do is create a fun, shiny trinket for the people to play with and they will literally pay for their own surveillance.

Welcome to the "Matrix Economy," where people pay to spy on themselves...and have fun doing it!

Huxley would be proud.

Filed in: Articles
Tagged with:

Comments (19)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. danmanultra says:

    I knew this seemed a little fishy…. I like the idea of people going outside and to places they have not been to before, but I knew with its connection to Google Earth that there might be a little more to it then that. Glad to know some of paranoia paid off….

  2. Steebs says:

    Is there really any way to convince the throngs of people that downloaded this game that I could be (and undoubtedly is) being used to spy on them? It seems like the battle against this was over before most even knew it began.

  3. nosoapradio says:

    “…as the line between gaming and the real world gets blurrier…

    “I don’t want realism. I want magic! … I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!

    …Welcome to the “Matrix Economy,” where people pay to spy on themselves…and have fun doing it!…”

    Everyman has become Blanche Dubois in a Skinner box…

  4. andrewtnicholson says:

    Article from the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday: Pokemon Go: Residents call police as Sydney suburb swamped

    “Pokémon Go players claim they have been moved on by police and threatened with fines on Tuesday night, after a large crowd flocked to a park in Rhodes.”

    “… residents in the quiet waterside suburb are fighting back, with one telling Fairfax Media overnight that there was “complete chaos” and “massive levels of noise” after midnight.”

    “There were also reports of residents waterbombing Pokemon Go players …”

  5. s.jamieson says:

    Everyman has become Blanche Dubois in a Skinner box… that arouses me. I go now to seek counselling –

  6. erichard says:

    One side of this we should consider and develop is this: when the powers that shouldn’t be (ptsnb) find ways to spy on our private information, we in return have the opportunity to give them false information and confuse them.

  7. VoltaicDude says:

    we live Free to roam our cage
    equipped with a self-feed bottle of liquid cocaine
    and some electrodes strapped to our brains
    when we need comfort we snuggle-up
    to the soft-rug-covered-wire-mannequin
    at the other end, not to spoil us
    mmm, the formula, so good
    the high-end-brand-name
    the nice lab coat keeps it coming
    now, we have attained nirvana, certainly
    there is no tomorrow

    Life as a chock-full-of-something advertisement
    Make It Count

    Because the NYPD is so cool

    When you’re made, the universe works so well

    The virtual end of life
    Pokémon MANIA

  8. Octium says:

    Taking it to the next stage?

    Ukrainian witch-hunt site wants its own Pokémon Go to find ‘Russian terrorists’

  9. nosoapradio says:

    Is Ukrainian witch-hunt thing an extension of ideas expressed in link below?

    I guess everyone’s seen this old TED TAlK from 2010?

    starting at 15 minutes particularly into 20-minute talk.

    Will life become a simulation of virtual chaos…?

    • mik says:

      Jane McGonigal working for ‘Institute for the Future’, a spin-off from the ‘RAND Corporation’, is maybe trying to save the world, but not her bosses behind the curtains.

      After watching Jane I recommend video
      The Illusion of Truth

      • nosoapradio says:

        What’s interesting also about that TedTalk with Jane McGonigal is what she says at the end:

        “There are two things I know for sure:

        1: We can make any future that we can imagine and

        2: We can play any games that we want…”

        It seems that the games are not designed to solve urgent problems that already really exist – (since any future is possible) and we can play any games we want… curious statement…

        The games are designed to give people a vision of the future in order to make people really live in that virtual world:

        a world where global warming and peak oil exist and must be solved for example.

        Through repetition and virtual illusion created by the games, cognitive ease and thus an acceptable, unquestionable reality will be created.

        It’s insidious this demand to ask people to play the game as if it were real life like the ones she cites and the Pokemon game…: It is yet another way that fiction is being blurred into reality… and using and abusing and usurping people’s most noble intentions, sacrifices, energy…

        She concludes with the rallying cry “So I say, let the world-changing games begin!”

        The cry, like a Cleopatra, that existed in Ancient times, to begin the gladiators bread and circus blood-thirsty show:

        a show to perpetuate the status quo…

        • nosoapradio says:

          kinda scary to think about when the Pokemon Game thrill wears off what will be added to keep the game going…?

          A hybrid vision blending the Pokemon game with the Ukraine witch hunt for Russion “Terrorists”

          gives a whole new dimension to Stephen King’s already prophetic reality show horror story “Running Man”…

          and just in case there’s still one person left who hasn’t seen this yet:

  10. LastHumanist says:

    Still no expert on Japanese pop culture, James?


    It’s the only pop culture left that isn’t complete trash.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Back to Top