Palm Beach Man Sues Pokemon Go Creators Over Sketchy User Agreement
Are Niantic's everlasting rights to your data really any more ethically questionable than capturing a wild humanoid creature and forcing it to fight for you?
Photo by Angelina Pilarinos / Shutterstock.com
David Beckman and Morgan Weinstein were sitting in a macaroon shop in West Palm Beach when they got the idea to sue the creators of Pokémon Go.
The two sat, like many pairs of 21st-century friends, with their phones out. Weinstein, a lawyer, was catching up on email. Beckman, a high school teacher on summer vacation, was catching Pokémon.
Weinstein had never seen the massively popular mobile game, so Beckman explained it to him and mentioned that he felt a little queasy about the amount of user data the app collected. Weinstein decided to take a look at Pokémon Go’s terms of service.
On Tuesday, Weinstein filed suit against Niantic, the app’s developer, on behalf of Beckman. He argues that Pokémon Go’s terms of service violate the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act because they give Niantic the exclusive right to change the terms at any time, without notice.
The terms, which users must agree to in order to play the game, also require users to give Niantic “perpetual, irrevocable” rights to their data while allowing the company to revoke users’ access to the game and their in-app purchases at any time for any reason.
Pokémon Go keeps track of the messages users send to each other, the web pages they visit before opening the app, their search terms, the links they click on, and unspecified “other statistics.”
“My client could give all his information away,” Weinsten said. “They could take all his Google information, all the addresses he’s visited and never allow him to access the app.”
Weinstein and his firm, Van Ness Law Firm, are seeking an injunction that would require Niantic to change its terms of service.
Beckman, 34, downloaded the app two weeks ago and has spent a few nights with a teacher friend and his family walking around Lake Worth and West Palm Beach hunting for Pokémon. He has yet to track down his favorite, Pikachu.
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“My banking information is on my phone,” Beckman says. “There is private information about my students in my emails. It’s so tough not to know what a company like this has access to and what they don’t have access to. It would be nice if it were clearly stated.”
Despite his concerns and lawsuit, Beckman has managed to snag 48 types of Pokémon and power his Vaporeon up to 840 CP. He's gotten his trainer up to Level 10.
Weinstein, meanwhile, still has not downloaded the app.
“It’ll be interesting to get student input on the game when school starts up again,” says Beckman, who teaches math and theory of knowledge at the G-Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. “I don’t want to see them with it all day long. We have enough to get through as it is.”
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