Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.
Pokemon Go uses smartphones to identify players' physical location with the goal of collecting and training virtual characters located there. Illustration Sam Mirovich, Reuters Media Express.
Opt-ins for email, data sharing
Similarly, the policy provides the option of opting out of data transfers to the U.S. (though with the warning that some services may be unavailable for those that do so). The choice of “localizing” personal information reflects mounting concerns with U.S. surveillance activities and may signal increasing demand from the public to have the choice of having their data kept outside that country.
The privacy issues, including concerns over initial settings that shared detailed Google account information with the company, prompted U.S. Senator Al Franken to demand public answers on the privacy practices. The Google information sharing setting has since been altered, but even more interesting may be the Pokémon Go issues that are unique to games that blend the real and virtual.
Trespassing a risk
For example, trespass laws may arise as players find themselves wandering into private spaces in search of virtual characters. For instance, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have both requested that players refrain from catching characters there.
There are also reports of potential physical harm for players as they visit places that may be unsafe or unknown. The Pokémon Go terms unsurprisingly state that the company disclaims all liability for any property damage or personal injury, but the foreseeability of potential harm suggests that these terms may ultimately face legal challenge.
The use of augmented reality is at a very early stage, but given the massive popularity of Pokémon Go, there is every reason to believe that the technology – and the legal issues that come with it – are here to stay.