Just as Pokemon Go’s popularity spread like wildfire on
social media, so too did a rumor the app collects data for Google Maps and the
CLAIM: The Pokemon Go app is covertly passing
information to Google Maps as well as the National Security Agency (NSA).
16 July 2016, Facebook user Chuck DeJarnett published the above-reproduced
claim that the popular augmented reality game Pokemon Go is a trojan horse
designed to mobilize users to populate Google Maps by uploading video views of
their homes, yards, and everywhere else they go, as well as provide private
information to the National Security Agency (NSA). Although it appears his post
was later either deleted or friends-locked, it was circulated widely via
screenshots and copy/paste of its text. DeJarnett also publicly shared another
tongue-in-cheek video, one that similarly but satirically asserted the app was
a tricky lure to get players to surveil themselves.
We contacted Google to determine whether there was any truth
to the original claim that Niantic and Google were in cahoots to use Pokemon Go
to populate Google Maps data. The representative who responded to our query
confirmed no such relationship exists between Niantic and Google, adding that
players still concerned about the possibility need only disable the augmented
reality feature of the game to protect themselves from any such recording:
No imagery or data from the game is stored in Google Maps.
Niantic and Google are separate companies, so if you need any information on
turning off AR mode or turning off the camera functionality in the game, the
folks at Niantic can help out.
As such, it is relatively safe for Pokemon Go users to take
Google at its word about the rumor. Not only would a surreptitious arrangement
between the two separate entities be difficult to conceal, but as the
representative stated, augmented reality (viewing the game through the device’s
camera) is an easily disabled feature. Without that functionality running and
draining valuable battery power, it would be difficult for Niantic to engage in
such a conspiracy at all.