Pokemon Go Defeats Lawsuit Over Privacy Policy

Siding with the developer of Pokemon Go, a judge has dismissed a consumer's lawsuit over the app's privacy policy.

Judge Meenu Sasser of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Florida ruled Tuesday that Palm Beach County resident David Beckman couldn't proceed with his case against Niantic -- a Google spinoff -- because he didn't suffer any injury from Pokemon Go's alleged practices.

Beckman alleged in his complaint that that Pokemon Go's terms of service violated Florida's consumer protection law, which prohibits deceptive and unfair trade practices.

He filed suit last July, within days of the launch of the popular augmented reality game, which involves players using their mobile phones to "catch" Pokemon characters.

His complaint centered largely on Pokemon Go's privacy policies, which allegedly allowed the company to gather a host of data from consumers -- including their search queries and locations. Beckman also alleged that Pokemon Go improperly reserved the right to terminate users' access at any time, potentially depriving people of the value of any virtual goods or currency.

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Pokemon Go asked Sasser to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Beckman lacked "standing" to proceed because he hadn't been harmed. The company elaborated that Beckman's allegations regarding "fears of possible or speculative future injury" -- including the possibility that his account would be terminated or his information misused -- didn't warrant a lawsuit.

Sasser accepted that argument. "Plaintiff has not alleged he suffered any actual injury," she wrote. "For instance, plaintiff has not alleged that defendant actually took plaintiff's virtual goods or virtual money without compensation or actually unilaterally terminated his Pokemon Go account."

She also ruled that Beckman couldn't proceed with claims that Pokemon Go violated a Florida law, because the app's terms of service provide that disputes will be decided under California law.

When Beckman filed the suit, the app's privacy policies were drawing scrutiny -- partially because a researcher discovered that the app asked iPhone users for permission to access their Gmail accounts, contacts, and other information stored in Google's cloud. (Niantic said that request was the result of a glitch, and that the app only accessed people's User IDs and email addresses.)

The privacy issues drew attention on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) asking the company to answer privacy-related questions, including the reasons why it collected data and whether it shares data with third-party service providers.

Niantic responded that the app collects data about players' locations, mobile operating systems, device identifiers and hardware. The company also said it sometimes uses third parties to analyze aggregated data, but doesn't sell data about users.

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