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The Dangers of going to the (Pokémon) Gym

It is difficult to believe that Pokémon GO, the augmented reality (AR) mobile game that has taken the world by storm, was only released by its publisher a fortnight ago to the day.

The game, which has only officially been released in the USA and Australia, already has a Wikipedia page with 160 citations. Its official Twitter account has 873,000 followers (and counting) and the unofficial Twitter account has 568,000 followers (and counting). Even certain Gregg Latchams employees (who shall remain nameless) are big fans of the game, which blends traditional gameplay with a real-world canvas using a smartphone’s GPS and camera functions.

Players can meet together at designated “gyms” (the equestrian statue of William III in our very own Queen Square being one) and other PokéStops which serve as virtual battlefields and meeting places within the game.

Despite the game’s infancy, there has already been considerable debate about the advantages and disadvantages of the game and the legal implications of its use including:

  • The designation of cemeteries, memorials (such as Auschwitz), dangerous locations (such as railway tracks and Bosnian minefields) and the homes of private individuals (such as Boon Sheridan) as PokéStops
  • Players being distracted by the game when walking or driving, causing accidents and injuries to themselves and others
  • Criminals using PokéStops to mug unsuspecting players
  • The use and sharing by the game’s publisher of the potentially massive volumes of personal data collected from players (the game’s privacy policy refers to the sharing of “aggregated information and non-identifying information” with third parties)
  • The use by third parties of gameplay as a means of generating business through product placement and special offers for customers who visit their business premises
  • Security issues such as malware and hacking
  • Ownership of copyright where users record footage or take still photographs of public artworks and sculptures that are protected by law

Clearly some of these issues are a matter of players demonstrating some level of common sense and personal responsibility. However questions relating to liability and privacy are likely to come to the fore over the coming weeks and months and it will be interesting to see how the regulators respond to those questions.

One thing is for certain, Pokémon Go, although not the first of its kind, is just the beginning for mainstream AR gameplay and we can expect to see TV, film and games properties old and new appearing in a place near you.

How can Gregg Latchams help?

Our Digital Media & Technology team can advise games developers on the current regulatory approach towards the issues outlined above, particularly in relation to current and upcoming data protection law. From preparing privacy impact assessments through to terms and conditions and privacy policies, our team has considerable experience in the mobile app marketplace.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

Categories: Commercial | Digital Media & Technology

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