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US Senate Wants Pokemon Go Probed Over Security Concerns

As the viral hit Pokemon Go mobile game continues to take the world by storm, a Democratic Senator has sent a letter to the software developer behind Nintendo’s latest hit, asking for clarification on data privacy concerns raised over the location-based augmented reality app.

While the app has rapidly topped Tinder in popularity it has also been revealed that playing the game allows the developer, Niantic, to collect troves of sensitive user data, including "full access permission" to a user’s Google account. The developer has since released a statement saying that it was an error and that no information had been collected. They have also reportedly corrected the issue through an app update.

​Still, Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) concerns remain, and on Tuesday he sent a letter to Niantic chief executive John Hanke asking for more information on what user data is currently collected, how it is used, and what third party service provider’s data may be shared, Reuters reported.

"I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent," Franken wrote in his letter. "As the augmented reality market evolves, I ask that you provide greater clarity on how Niantic is addressing issues of user privacy and security, particularly that of its younger players.”

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Rachel Kurzius, associate editor of the DCist, joined Sputnik Radio’s Unanimous Dissent on Monday to discuss data privacy issues accompanying the phenomenon, including that only Apple iOS users, not Android users, gave the company "full access permission" through their use of the game.

“I think that it’s fascinating that users using an iPhone or Android would have such a different experience, in terms of how much of their data is available to the developers of the app,” Kurzius stated. “I think that if Android users are able to have so much more privacy — allegedly — then that is something that should also apply to iPhone users… and I’m not just saying that as an iPhone user.

Kurzius explained that while her iPhone did not have enough storage space to download the app, she played it on a friend’s Android, citing data security concerns.

The game is a throwback to a 90’s video game and hit children’s cartoon television series, and is a virtual scavenger hunt to collect the pocket monsters by using the player’s cellphone camera and GPS app. An estimated one in every 20 Android phones in the United States now have the app installed, placing it on track to surpass Twitter in popularity.

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