The Pentagon has a message for its staff: Pokémon stop.
Anyone working at the Arlington, Virginia, headquarters of the US Department of Defense searching for Squirtles and Snorlaxes on the Pokémon Go app has been told to do it outside the building, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Times.
As of a few weeks ago, there was even a “gym” – where Pokémon Go players can fight and train their virtual pets – inside the Pentagon. But the idea of staff playing a game that meticulously tracks the location of every player appears to have worried the largest military in the world.
Given the rules of Pentagon tours – no cellphones – the only people who would have been able to compete in the gym while it existed were employees. Defense officials were concerned that players inside their facilities could be tracked via the game, potentially giving away the location of rooms, and that information accessed by the game could be stolen by foreign spies.
The game originally asked for full Google account access to run properly, which gave the game’s developer Niantic access to users’ emails, their search histories, and their Google docs. Niantic said it had no use for that information and that the request had been created in error; it rolled back its privacy permissions shortly thereafter.
Niantic Labs’ CEO, John Hanke, worked with Google’s Geo division. Geo pioneered the company’s controversial mapping and photographing protocols, which have given the company a repository of images of most of the world’s mappable surfaces and was accused in 2010 of illegally and secretly collecting data from unencrypted wireless networks.
The Pentagon’s Pokémon gym has now been closed. Gym locations in the game were assigned by the games developer, Niantic. The Pentagon is not the only controversial gym locations. Gym stops at graves, military complexes and memorial museums have also attracted criticism.
The White House has also been designated a gym and thus far allowed to remain so; the location has attracted fierce competition from some top players, including a high-level Exeggutor, a bipedal plant-like psychic Pokémon and a fully evolved Blastoise, a turtle with pressurized water jets on its shell. It was recently taken over by a Magikarp someone had renamed The Donald in what appears to have been an act of political satire. “Magikarp is a pathetic excuse for a Pokémon that is only capable of flopping and splashing,” reads the in-game description of the character. “This behavior prompted scientists to undertake research into it.”
This article was written by Sam Thielman in New York, for theguardian.com on Friday 12th August 2016 17.53 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010