What do Rio Olympians and New York state sex offenders have in common? Soon, neither will be playing Pokémon Go, or at least that’s the hope of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In a letter sent to Niantic CEO John Hanke, the developers of the massively popular game, Cuomo asked for help in having sex offenders barred from playing. The trade? Cuomo gives Niantic access to the information stored under the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act—which is regularly shared with social networking sites—which contains email addresses, screen names, and other online identifiers for offenders. In return he asks Niantic to do the rest. Cuomo’s letter opens:
Protecting our children and ensuring their safety is our top priority, and the State of New York is moving swiftly to respond to troubling news that young children using Pokémon GO are being steered to locations in close proximity to, or even at, sex offender residences.
Concern stems from an “informal investigation” (as the New York Times put it) carried out by state Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane J. Savino. They compared the residences of 100 sex offenders to in-game locations and found that a gym or PokéStop was within half a block of a sex offender’s home in 59 of those 100 cases. Considering how many Pokéstops are in New York City that’s truthfully not so surprising. Nevertheless, The Times reports that this overlap is the cause for two pieces of forthcoming legislation which would change how sex offenders are able to use augmented reality.
Although many reports of crimes being committed via Pokémon Go have been overblown, there have been a few robberies and a car accident. Likewise, Cuomo isn’t the only one demanding change from Niantic. Everyone from the staff of war memorials to the die-hard users is angry. And lest we forget, today is also the day a hacker collective threatened to take down the game’s servers. So it’s shaping up to be a very bad week for Pokémon Go. And it’s only Monday.