Suit Says ‘Pokemon Go’ Game Terms Deceive

     WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – A Florida man sued the maker of Pokemon Go, claiming the popular game uses a “deceptive” terms-of-service contract to lure players into surrendering their personal information.
     In Palm Beach County court, David Beckman claims that when he downloaded Pokemon Go, he unwittingly handed over his private info to the game’s developer, Niantic, under an irrevocable license.
     The license gives Niantic the right to retain and share the data including players’ location, recent web history, search terms and user messages in perpetuity, according to the complaint.
     Before playing, users have to agree to granting the license to Niantic via a terms-of-service contract that Beckman describes as “illusory, deceptive, unfair and/or unconscionable.” He claims the contract is invalid since it allows Niantic “to unilaterally, materially change the Pokemon Go Privacy Policy” at will.
     “In other words, Niantic is not bound by the Pokemon Go Terms of Service or the Pokemon Go Privacy Policy, and may perform [under the contract] if it wants to,” the lawsuit alleges.
     Additionally, Beckman claims, Niantic unfairly asserts the right to terminate a player’s account at the company’s sole discretion and refuse a refund for virtual goods which the player is using in the game.
     Beckman seeks relief under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
     He wants the Palm Beach court to issue a declaratory judgment that the terms-of-service contract is unenforceable.
     His lawsuit, filed July 26, comes on the heels of a German consumer advocacy group’s threat to initiate a court action against Niantic over comparable privacy concerns.
     Last week, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations said it could sue Niantic if the company did not alter the Pokemon Go terms-of-service to better comply with German privacy regulations.
     Former comedian and current senator Al Franken of Minnesota recently sent a letter to the company, likewise asking it to address privacy issues associated with the game.
     “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,” Sen. Franken wrote.
     “From a user’s general profile information to their precise location data and device identifiers, Niantic has access to a significant amount of information, unless users – many of whom are children – opt-out of this collection.”
     The company’s policy documents meanwhile insist that “protecting your privacy (or the privacy of your authorized child) is really important to Niantic.”
     The documents state that Niantic “may share aggregated and non-identifying information with third parties for research and analysis, demographic profiling and other similar purposes.”
     But the company says that users can contact it and readily request that it modify, delete or discontinue sharing their personal data.
     Though estimates vary between analysts, SensorTower has speculated that Pokemon Go has been downloaded more than 7 million times in the United States since its recent release.
     The app, often referred to as an “augmented reality game,” directs players to interact with creatures from the Pokemon world in real-life locations, as the creatures pop up on users’ phones or mobile devices.
     The game’s meteoric rise to popularity contributed to Niantic partner Nintendo’s stock price doubling earlier this month before leveling off.

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