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China Sees Nat'l Security Risk in Pokemon Go

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 19, 2017 5:58 AM

So Pokemon doesn't go after all.

At least not for now in China, which is considering whether to allow the popular game to play out on phones there. Government officials are concerned about reports that Pokemon Go players are wandering around looking for Pokemon characters and carelessly causing accidents. In nearby Japan, two people were killed in car accidents last year because gamers were distracted.

In China, the government is also concerned about security problems with the app's geolocation services. When using the Pokemon Go app to navigate through a virtual world, players broadcast their locations in the real world.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the government censor, said it bore "a high level of responsibility to national security and the safety of people's lives and property."

Not in Kansas Anymore

After the game was released in the United States last year, it quickly spread to more than 38 countries. It captured the imagination of millions of people who hunted down Pokemon characters that appeared on their phones to be in the real world around them.

Niantic Labs, which launched the app, did not expect it to become the most popular mobile game of all time in such a short period of time. Fans even lauded its health benefits, helping gamers to get off the couch and to move around.

But scores of injuries, robberies, and fatalities to people using the game prompted a backlash. Several countries, including Japan, Israel, Turkey and now China, have issued warnings to their citizens. In Bosnia, a nongovernmental agency cited the risk of players wandering onto old landmines that have existed since the 1992 Bosnian War.

Pokemon, Go Home

Some Chinese companies have been developing apps based on augmented reality and location-based services, like Pokemon Go. The game relies on Google services such as the maps application, which are blocked in China.

The recent developments have prompted a panel of a digital publishing association to seek advice from China's licensing body. The China Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association said on its website that the risks from Pokemon Go include a "threat to geographical information security and the threat to transport and the personal safety of consumers."

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