A Chinese expert — who specializes in matters relating to artificial intelligence — believes the augmented reality game “Pokémon Go” poses a serious threat to the confidentiality of China’s military bases and some Chinese netizens agree with him.
Pokemon crazed fans are eagerly awaiting the ultra-popular game’s highly-anticipated release in China, but it looks like that will be a long and probably fruitless wait — especially considering the high priority that China places on its military secrets.
Because the game depicts a live view of where players have been directed to catch Pokémon, the worry is that geographic areas that usually would not be shown online are still captured in the game’s database, putting well-kept secret locations at risk.
During an interview with the Global Times, the expert tried to illustrate the severity of what could happen. Say a player was sent hunting for Pokémon at a beach in Sanya and were to then upload images from the game to the internet. This would be perfectly harmless, unless that area happens to be the location of a well-hidden military base.
If players were shooed away from where they are not supposed to be, this info could be relayed to Niantic, the American company behind Pokemon Go. Game developers could look for areas where lots of Pokémon were spawning, but none were being caught, and would then be able to draw some problematic conclusions. (Obviously, the only solution to this problem would be to have military personnel catch some Pokemon, as a service to their country.)
Another foreseeable problem is what Niantic does with its data containing the movements of millions of players inside the country. For its mapping, Pokémon Go relies on Google, not exactly China’s favorite tech company.
For all these reasons and more, some Chinese netizens have declared Pokémon Go an American/Japanese military conspiracy. “Don’t play Pokémon GO!!! It’s so the U.S. and Japan can explore China’s secret bases!” wrote one Weibo user according to Reuters.
So, it looks like Chinese Pokémon fans are in for a long wait indeed. In the meantime, the domestic rip-off “City Spirit Go” will have to tide them over.
By Robin Winship