Your Rights vs. Pokémon Go

Pokémon GO Logo

The Pokémon Go craze continues, with the game now officially available for Android and iOS users in Canada, the UK and Germany. Today we’ll take a moment to consider some legal aspects of the game, so that players can be better informed and haters can have something tangible to justify their hate.

Canadian lawyer, professor and digital rights expert Michael Geist pored through the privacy policy for the game and noted some clauses unique to specific markets around the world:

While the Pokémon Go privacy policy offers few choices, there are two notable exceptions that highlight how laws can make a difference. The policy distinguishes between U.S. and European users for commercial email, with U.S. users automatically registered for emails unless they take steps to opt-out, while European users provided with the stronger safeguard of an opt-in approach. Once the service formally launches in Canada, users will presumably be offered the higher standard of protection due to Canadian anti-spam laws.

Since I downloaded the game from APK Mirror before it was officially available in Canada, I’m pretty sure that my download was subject to the U.S. email policy. But if I remember correctly, opting out was as easy as unticking a box on first boot.

While marketing emails may not ultimately be such a big deal, author and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow reports on a matter far more troubling:

To play Pokémon Go, you have to accede to a binding arbitration clause, surrendering your right to sue and promising only to seek redress for any harms that the company visits upon you in a system of secretive, one-sided shadow courts paid for by corporations where class actions are not permitted and the house always wins.

In adding binding arbitration to its terms of service, Pokémon joins a small but growing movement of online services that strip their customers of their legal rights as a condition of sale, including Google Fiber and Airbnb.

But there’s a way out: if you want to play Pokémon Go without submitting to binding arbitration, you need to send an email to termsofservice@nianticlabs.com with the subject “Arbitration Opt-out Notice” within 30 days of creating your account, and include in the body “a clear declaration that you are opting out of the arbitration clause in the Pokémon Go terms of service.”

You’ve got 30 days from signup to do this, and so do your friends, so spread the word: gotta warn ’em all!

Sources: Michael Geist, Cory Doctorow

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