The CIA’s ‘Pokémon Go’ App is Doing What the Patriot Act Can’t
Corbett • 07/14/2016 • 13 Comments
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.

On 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!

The 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: cia • google • nsa • spying • video games

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Comments (13)

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danmanultra says:
07/14/2016 at 12:53 am

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….
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Steebs says:
07/14/2016 at 1:58 am

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.
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nosoapradio says:
07/14/2016 at 5:17 am

“…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…
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mdj says:
07/14/2016 at 11:57 am

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andrewtnicholson says:
07/14/2016 at 3:20 pm

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 …”
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s.jamieson says:
07/14/2016 at 11:01 pm

Everyman has become Blanche Dubois in a Skinner box… that arouses me. I go now to seek counselling –
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nosoapradio says:
07/15/2016 at 12:08 am

Well, soma, insane asylums and lobotomies not withstanding, it’s all about arousal. Like the skinner rat zombified by perpetual and frenetic self-inflicted titillation. Explain that to your counsellor.
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nosoapradio says:
07/15/2016 at 12:19 am

Actually I didn’t mean to be agressive. Have a great French Revolution day and I’ll knock off the beer and boredom…
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nosoapradio says:
07/15/2016 at 7:26 pm

Well, don’t know how yours was but French Revolution day was not very nice in Nice…

Conveniently being blamed on “slack EU border security”.

Guess we need more border controls and a standing army. Right?
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erichard says:
07/14/2016 at 11:51 pm

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.
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taxpayer says:
07/15/2016 at 11:12 am seems to be a good start on this.
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VoltaicDude says:
07/15/2016 at 9:04 am

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
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BuddhaForce says:
07/15/2016 at 2:41 pm

Clinton gets in on Pokemon Go craze
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