Commentary

Pokemon Go Smeared By Specter Of Predators

From privacy issues to the zombification of large populations of people, the Pokémon Go phenomenon has had some disturbing side effects.

Taking the cake, however, a recent report showed how the game could lead to unwelcome encounters with registered sex offenders.

After visiting the locations of 100 registered sex offenders in New York City, state senators Jeffrey Klein and Diane Savino found 57 nearby pokémon and 59 pokéstops and “gyms.”

Of course, the senators were especially concerned about “lures” that draw pokémon and game players to particular locations.

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In response, New York’s correctional department has decided that playing online games is now violation of parole for sex offenders.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has also sent a letter to Pokémon Go parent Niantic in which he requests their assistance in prohibiting sexual predators from playing the immensely popular game.

“As technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don't become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims," Governor Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s directive will apply to nearly 3,000 Level 1, 2 and 3 sex offenders currently on parole.

The Department of Criminal Justice Services will also be providing guidance to county probation offices recommending the adoption of this policy. And the New York Governor has directed DCJS to reach out to provide the most up-to-date information of offenders within the sex offender registry.

It’s hard to say how such measures will impact the popularity of Pokémon Go -- which recently topped 75 million downloads worldwide -- and the emerging genre of mobile augmented reality gaming.

Will they reassure users and their parents that these games are safe, or lead people to associate the games with sexual predators and other bad actors?

Ultimately, users will decide.

This column was originally published in Moblog on August 1, 2016.
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