Pokémon Go developer Niantic has responded to Sen. Al Franken after he sent a letter about concerns regarding the use of personal data by the company.
“Pokémon GO is available on both the Android and Apple iOS platforms, and it uses the permissions infrastructure of those two platforms to access phone resources that are used in the game,” replied Niantic in their response to Franken’s privacy concerns.
The two platforms present these permissions differently, but the purpose is the same, which is to notify users and obtain their consent for the phone features Pokémon GO uses. For example, when a user installs Pokemon GO for Android, she is asked for specific opt-in consent for the app to access the mobile device’s location services, photo, media and files on the device, camera, and contacts.
These permissions enable Pokémon GO to function – for example, locating the Trainer on the map (location service setting), and displaying Pokemon “in the real world” (camera setting) as illustrated in the screen shots above. Trainers can change these consents later through the permissions controls enabled by the platform, although disabling certain settings (such as location services) will not permit game play.
After obtaining platform consents, Pokémon GO launches, and asks the user for her date of birth. Users who enter a date of birth under age 13 are directed to the Pokemon Trainer Club in order to obtain verifiable parental consent as required by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Niantic also responded to the concerns about Pokémon Go’s early permissions error that allowed the company to access all user data on Android phones, claiming, “Niantic corrected this problem in the app on July 12, so that the app only has access to the limited account permissions.”
Sen. Al Franken sent his letter of concern to Niantic in July, where he declared, “I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent.”