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Why Pokémon Go Is So Dangerous

The Snowden director believes personal security is violated by Nintendo's cute capture game.

Posted on July 21, 2016, at 6:09 p.m. ET

Oliver Stone with Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Zachary Quinto at San Diego Comic-Con on July 21.
Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Oliver Stone with Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Zachary Quinto at San Diego Comic-Con on July 21.

Since the mobile game was released under a month ago, Pokémon Go has dominated headlines. And while many players have extolled its positive virtues (like helping with mental health issues, shelter dogs meeting more volunteers, new couples being formed, Justin Bieber staying out of trouble), there are also some negative side effects that come with the location-based app: Namely, it can access a lot of your personal information.

And that's why acclaimed film director Oliver Stone sees Pokémon Go as a harbinger of doom.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

During a San Diego Comic-Con panel today for his new film Snowden — the biopic of infamous government agent turned whistleblower Edward Snowden — Stone was asked what he thought of the popular app, considering how seriously his movie treats the subject of personal privacy.

"[It] is a new level of invasion," he said of the game. "It's the biggest new fastest-growing business ever, and they have invested huge amount of money into — as what surveillance is — data mining. Data mining every single person in this room for information as to what you're buying, what you like — above all, your behavior."

The director was referring to how the app works: Using the GPS in your phone, Pokémon Go captures the wheres and whens of your day. Niantic, the company that developed Pokémon Go, was also previously privy to users' private data, like email, and though the company said it's fixed an initial error that also gave the company that access, Stone sees it as a threat to human behavior.

"It's everywhere. It's what some people call surveillance capitalism; it's the newest stage where it's not for profit at the beginning but it becomes for profit in the end because it creates its own awareness until it manipulates our own behavior and we start to act like that — which has happened already quite a bit on the internet. You'll see a new form of, frankly, a robot society where they will know how you want to behave and they will make the mock-up that matches how you behave. It's what they call totalitarianism."

While Stone is worried about the game setting a precedent for government being able to control its citizens' public and private lives, Snowden star Zachary Quinto has a slightly less doom-and-gloom outlook on the app. He was more immediately concerned with how collective dependence on technology prevents us from experiencing our day-to-day lives. To that end, he suggested everyone try to "find a connection that transcends the machines. I feel like as long as you can find a balance in that and limit your Pokémon Go time ... have at it."

Then, looking around the enormous Hall H ballroom of the San Diego Convention Center, Quinto observed: "I'm sure this place is crawling with Pokémon Go."


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