Unless you’ve been living under a technological rock the last two months, you should be very familiar with the most downloaded mobile game app in history (100 million and counting) – Pokémon GO.
The game, based on Nintendo’s highly popular franchise, allows regular people to become Pokémon “trainers” by searching all over the world for the little monsters, then catching them in virtual Pokéballs. Needless to say, it can be highly addictive and has led to all sorts of unusual news stories by now – some more perplexing than others. However, while Pokémon GO the game can be a fun way to spend time with friends and family or just pass the time, it would appear the highest branches of the American military see it in a different light.
According to a Washington Times source, The Pentagon (which houses the executive branches of the American military) has passed down a new rule forbidding the playing of Pokémon GO at any military facilities – and outright banning it from being installed on any military-controlled mobile devices.
Setting aside the real world dangers Pokémon GO players have faced (from being robbed, to falling off cliffs), there have been no reports thus far to indicate Pokémon GO has been or can be used for spying on high-level secret intelligence. Despite original security concerns within the game, the fact that it uses real-time GPS information has officials worried that someone with nefarious intentions could eventually find a way to exploit that data to extract military secrets – which is why the new rule is being implemented.
Secrecy concerns were most likely also heightened after military officials saw this tweet of Pikachu at a shooting range posted on the Twitter account for the U.S. Marines:
Get off the firing line, Pikachu! That's a safety violation! pic.twitter.com/WilmXFBHlf— U.S. Marines (@USMC) July 11, 2016
The United States isn’t the only government taking measures to ensure that their secrets are kept safe from a possible Squirtle sneak attack. Amid the same intelligence concerns, two weeks ago the Israeli government also cracked down on Pokémon GO, banning it from both being played on base or being installed on government-controlled electronic devices. Their decision was probably influenced by a picture posted on Facebook of a member of the Israeli Navy throwing a Pokéball at a Gyarados, which had situated itself on a nearby warship.
This isn’t the first time a piece of pop culture has been banned from military complexes due to intelligence concerns. Back in 1999, Furbies were once all the rage. The fur-covered toy that spoke to its owner was so popular that it became the most sought after toy of the 1998 Christmas season. However, the NSA was concerned the adorable little creatures could mistakenly overhear, then repeat, government secrets (something that would be debunked shortly thereafter), so they banned all Furbies from being brought onto any government installation.
As the newness and popularity of Pokémon GO begins to wane, officials probably won’t be as concerned with a Spy vs. Spy-type scenario taking place on government property using the mobile game app. That is, until the next big thing in pop culture having the potential to leak government secrets surfaces to take its place.
Pokémon Go is available now for both iOS and Android mobile devices.