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Sunday 4 December 2016

Data Protection Commissioner to publish guidelines on location-based apps as thousands play Pokemon Go

Published 07/08/2016 | 02:30

Pokemon Go's success has heralded a surge in concern over the safety and privacy implications of location-based games and apps.
Pokemon Go's success has heralded a surge in concern over the safety and privacy implications of location-based games and apps.

Detailed guidance on internet users' right to privacy regarding their location, amid the rise of GPS-enabled apps and games like Pokemon Go, is to be released by the Data Protection Commissioner.

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The smartphone game allows users to collect cartoon character Pokemons as they journey to real-life locations. The game inserts the animated creatures into players' surroundings using real-time GPS data and phone cameras. It topped the Irish charts for Android app downloads as of last Friday.

Its success has heralded a surge in concern over the safety and privacy implications of location-based games and apps. In the US last month, armed criminals used Pokemon Go to lure teenage victims to an isolated location where they were robbed. Last week Iran became the first country to ban the game because of unspecified "security concerns".

Consumer watchdogs across Europe have also been raising questions about the contract customers must agree to before using the game. Pokemon Go's terms of service waive a player's rights to courtroom representation as a plaintiff or class action member in favour of binding, individual arbitration, unless the user opts out within a month of the download.

When contacted by the Sunday Independent, a spokesman for Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner said "it was not aware of any specific data protection issues arising at this stage" in relation to Pokemon Go.

"However, like any smartphone app that seeks permissions in respect of users' personal data, such as location data or for advertising or personalising services, there are privacy implications and users should make themselves aware of the terms to which they are agreeing in downloading and installing the app," the spokesman added.

"In respect of location data, this office will be publishing detailed guidance early next week to assist individuals in understanding how organisations collect and process information relating to their location and their rights to the protection of their personal data."

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