To Catch a Rare Pokémon – What Did I Agree To?

Jul 26, 2016
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Richard Yuen

This is our second article on Pokémon Go – if you’d like to learn more about the legal issues and implications of the game in light of the incident at Peg Paterson’s Park, you can read the article here.

Pokémon Go has undoubtedly taken the world by storm, with more trainers having downloaded this game on their phones than Tinder in the United States. It’s undeniable how wide the coverage of this game is ever since it was released early this month. However, many players have jumped straight into this game without understanding what they have legally agreed to.

In light of recent privacy scares, let’s have a more in-depth look at what many Pokémon trainers have agreed to with Niantic, the developer of the service, by signing up to play the game.

What did I sign up to?

There are three main documents that users have agreed to if they are playing Pokémon Go:

1) Terms of Service

These are the terms that a player must agree to in order to play the game. The terms of service sets out the rules that users must follow and covers aspects of the app such as safe play, conduct, copyright policy and indemnity in the policy. This document is definitely the most comprehensive and technical of all the mentioned documents!

2) Trainer Guidelines

These guidelines cover appropriate behaviour while playing Pokémon Go, and strictly bans abuse and harassment, amongst other such inappropriate behaviour. If a player is found to be violating these Trainer guidelines, Niantic can issue a warning, suspend the player, or terminate the account.

3) Privacy Policy

This policy details the information that Niantic collects from players while playing Pokémon Go, and details how this information is collected, stored and used by Niantic. For more information on privacy policies, have a look at LawPath’s privacy policy guide.

These policies are often unread by many players, even though they cover such important information! We’ll take a deeper look at two of the largest controversies surrounding Pokémon Go’s policies.

Arbitration Notice – Waiver of Legal Rights

Hidden within Pokémon Go’s Terms of Services is an arbitration notice that, if you agreed to the terms, you agree that all disputes between you and Niantic will be resolved by arbitration only. As a result, you are waiving your right to a trial by jury and the right to participate in any class action or representative proceeding.

What does all this ‘legalese’ actually mean, though? It means that if any legal disputes arise, you have to go through arbitration, a process that appoints an independent person to settle a dispute. Additionally, even if there is a problem that affects a wide majority of players, and those players want to sue Niantic, you have already waived your right to participate in any group action.

A little scary at first, but mandatory arbitration clauses have been included in many standard form consumer contracts, and are quite common. In Australia, there are protections under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 that may deem these clauses to be unfair and may render them void. If you are concerned about your consumer rights as a Pokémon Go player, you can contact the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for more information.

The Privacy Scare

So what are some other issues that surround this game? Pokémon Go was found to have requested full access permission for the user’s Google account on iOS, which could apparently result in Niantic having full access to your Gmail, your search and maps history, your photos – anything linked to that specific Google account.

In Australia, the Privacy Act 1988 protects our rights in relation to any privacy concerns. Action has been taken by Timothy Pilgrim, the Australian Privacy Commissioner, to inquire more about the application’s access to users’ personal information. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has released a statement reminding users to “read the privacy policies of all smartphone apps before signing up”, and that users should be aware of what they are agreeing to.

The Legal Perspective

With so many people playing Pokémon Go, it’s unlikely that everyone playing the game has read the terms of services, and it’s understandable – they tend to be very thick legal documents, which can be hard for many to understand. In light of these incidents, however, we should make it a point to read the terms and conditions of anything we sign up to.

What other legal problems could come out of augmented reality gaming? Did you read the terms and conditions before you signed up? Let us know by tagging us @Lawpath.

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