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Pokémon GO - A Spyware?

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

We believe most of us would have heard of this online game Pokémon GO. The application achieved phenomenal success and taken everyone by surprise with its massive and sudden surge in user base.

When the game exploded on the market, conspiracy theorists came out with their theory about the game being used by intelligence agencies to spy. There were those who supported the theory and those who debunk the theory. 

In this write up, which is not an opinion piece, we are not going to tell you Pokémon GO is bad or that it invades your privacy. We are merely presenting verifiable facts.

  1. The developer of POKEMON is Niantic Labs founded by John Hanke. John Hanke previously founded this company Keyhole Inc. The investor of Keyhole was a firm called In-Q-Tel. 

  2. In-Q-Tel is funded by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA) which is a US Dept of Defense agency that provides location, mapping and imagery intelligence support to the National Security Agency and CIA in the US.

  3. Keyhole was the developer of this product called 'Earth' that was renamed 'Google Earth' after Google acquired Keyhole.

  4. When you install Pokémon GO on an Android phone, you grant it the following access (not including the ability to make in-app purchases):

  • Identity - Find accounts on the device

  • Contacts - Find accounts on the device

  • Location - Precise location (GPS and network-based) & Approximate location (network-based)

  • Photos/Media/Files - Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage - Read the contents of your USB storage

  • Storage - Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage - Read the contents of your USB storage

  • Camera - Take pictures and videos

  • Other - Receive data from the internet, Control vibration, Pair with Bluetooth devices, Access Bluetooth settings, Full network access, Use accounts on the device, View network connections, Prevent the device from sleeping

  • Where you are

  • Where you were

  • What route you took between those locations

  • When you were at each location

  • How long it took you to get between them

  • What you are looking at right now

  • What you were looking at in the past

  • What you look like

  • What files you have on your device and the entire contents of those files

Readers of this blog can make your own assessment and evaluation based on the above information. You can also assess independently, the opinions of those who believe in the theory and those who debunk in from online sources.


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