I will admit straight out that I have little idea what this Pokémon GO smart-phone and tablet craze is, but clearly the augmented reality game which uses location data, device cameras and data sharing is considered enough of a security risk to have prompted the French Ministry of Defence and at least one defence supplier to follow the example of a number of other countries and ban the game on their premises.
Apparently the game is played not only by children and young adults but, horrors, even by 40, 50 and 60 somethings! They are so concentrated on their smartphone screens that they walk into things, fall down, drive inattentively, are targeted by criminals because they are unaware of their surroundings, but also trespass, take photos where they shouldn’t and geo-position sensitive venues.
According to an anonymous, reliable source employed by the French MoD and quoted by French video game website jeuxvideo-live.com, a memorandum was sent out in late July following a number of reported incidents, forbidding ministry employees from playing Pokémon GO.
Similarly, major defence electronics supplier, Thales, has forbidden its employees from playing the game on its Lambersart site near Lille in northern France warning them that any “incident” will be reported, whilst Volkswagen, although not a defence supplier, has also warned its 70,000 or so employees that they are not allowed to have the game installed on their phones for fears of corporate espionage.
But France is far from being alone in taking this stand against the game. In July workers and contractors at the Pentagon received a memo to the effect that Pokémon GO was not to be downloaded and played on phones within any U.S. Defence Department facility. According to the Washington Times, the fear is that the app’s data usage could be used to access sensitive information or “provide pinpoint accuracy on the locations of room and other sensitive facilities.”
The Spanish military were also issued a memo in mid-August informing military personnel that “it is forbidden to play Pokémon GO inside or in the vicinity of cantonments and critical facilities of the Armed Forces,” whilst Israel on 1 August banned the game from all the country’s military bases. On 12 August Malaysia’s Chief of Army, Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, said the game is a threat to the safety of army personnel and national security when played by army officers. “It is not impossible that these characters in Pokémon GO will appear anywhere, including areas in the camps,” he warned. The Canadian Ministry of Defence has taken a similar stand, forbidding the game to be played on military bases. “If the characters show up on the roof, that affects the safety of the personnel involved. If the character is in a restricted area, it becomes a question of privacy and national security,” it stated.
Iran also banned the game earlier this month, but for everybody this time, saying the game is “not appropriate” because of concerns over it use of “location-based virtual reality technology,” even though the country has low-speed internet which makes the game difficult to use. Saudi Arabia has also issued a blanket ban on the game but for different reasons: a top clerical body said the game is too much like gambling and appears to be based on the theory of evolution, which is anti-Islamic.