August 8, 2016 (The New Atlas) – Iran has for now, banned Pokemon Go over security concerns.
The BBC in their article, “Pokemon Go banned by Iranian authorities over ‘security’,” would report that:
Authorities in Iran have banned the Pokemon Go app because of unspecified “security concerns”.
The decision was taken by the High Council of Virtual Spaces, the official body overseeing online activity.
Iran follows a number of other countries in expressing its worries over security related to the game.
While the BBC offers no insight into what security concerns Iran specifically had, PC Magazine offered a few theories in its article, “Iran is First Country to Ban Pokemon Go,” which reported:
We have our guesses, though. Pokemon Go can encourage players to get creative with their sleuthing at all hours of the night, which can prove troublesome. Trespassing concerns are prevalent, too—so much so, there’s even a class-action lawsuit in the works in the United States centered on that very issue.
It’s also possible that Iran wants to stop the “Pokemon effect” of tens (if not hundreds) of people all hanging out in the same area for hours at a time, or even the few cases where Pokemon Go players are robbed or assaulted when walking around Pokestops in particular areas.
The disruptive ability of the game to create and manipulate large groups of people on the streests, and other concerns regarding malware and permissions required by the application, couple together with the fact that the game’s developer, Niantic, has a somewhat nefarious pedigree.
Pokemon Go’s US State Department-Google Upbringing
Niantic is headed by John Hanke, a former US State Department employee and a former employee of Google. His time at Google included overseeing Google Maps and Google Earth at a time when the tech-giant was working together with the US State Department to assist protesters and militant groups during the opening stages of 2011’s Arab Spring. It would be revealed by the London Guardian’s article, “Syria: is it possible to rename streets on Google Maps?,” that:
In their struggle to free Syria from the clutches of President Bashar al-Assad, anti-government activists have embarked on a project to wipe him off the map. Literally. On Google Maps, major Damascus thoroughfares named after the Assad family have appeared renamed after heroes of the uprising. The Arab Spring has form in this regard. When anti-Gadaffi rebels tore into Tripoli last August, the name of the city’s main square on the mapping service changed overnight – from “Green Square”, the name given to it by the erstwhile dictator, to “Martyr’s Square”, its former title.
The internet giant’s mapping service has a history of weighing in on political disputes.
In other words, the US State Department, using Google’s applications, would augment military operations on the ground in real time through location-based information warfare.
Other aspects of the Google-US State Department collaboration were also revealed during this time, including an application proposed by Jared Cohen of Google (formally of the US State Department) to track alleged defections across Syria’s government and military in real-time to panic the rest of the nation into folding under the US-backed uprising.
The UK Independent in its article, “Google planned to help Syrian rebels bring down Assad regime, leaked Hillary Clinton emails claim,” would report that:
An interactive tool created by Google was designed to encourage Syrian rebels and help bring down the Assad regime, Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails have reportedly revealed.
By tracking and mapping defections within the Syrian leadership, it was reportedly designed to encourage more people to defect and ‘give confidence’ to the rebel opposition.
Considering the role the US State Department and Google played in setting the stage for the now ongoing war ravaging Syria to this day in which Iran is currently assisting the Syrian government, it is not difficult to see why Tehran would have reservations regarding a Google-US State Department-connected application like Pokemon Go being widely used within its borders.
The application can literally create a small mob virtually anywhere at anytime by simply populating virtual Pokemon characters at any given location. There is even a feature to specifically lure users to a particular area. While Niantic has claimed this is a means for businesses to attract customers, political campaigners in the US have already used it to lure players to political rallies.
|(A Pokemon Go instant-mob.)|
Iran, a nation the US has openly targeted in the past with organised uprising, is unlikely to want an application operating within its borders, created by a former US State Department employee with connections to Google, that is capable of generating crowds anywhere at any given time. Even as a means to throw off security forces, it would serve as a valuable tool to those seeking to subvert peace and stability.
Considering the price Syria is now paying for allowing foreign-backed elements to upend social order and stability there, Iran’s decision seems fairly reasonable and justified.
Conversely, Iran, and other nations, would be much better served by developing their own augmented reality, location-based applications, where their use and abuse would be directly controlled by the people using them, within the nation they are being used.
The New Atlas is a media platform providing geopolitical analysis and op-eds. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.