Uninvited Pokémon Go Players Prompt Lawsuit, Demand for Removal

August 4, 2016

A New Jersey man is going to federal court to keep “Pokémon Go” players off his lawn.

Jeffrey Marder, of West Orange, says strangers began lingering outside of his home after the popular game was released last month. At least five people knocked on his door and asked to get into his backyard to catch a Pokémon placed there virtually by the game, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in California.

The suit against game makers Niantic Inc., Nintendo Co., and The Pokémon Company seeks class action status for others who have had Pokémon stops and gyms placed on their property.

The lawsuit says the defendants “have shown a flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokémon without seeking the permission of property owners.”

Spokespeople for the companies weren’t immediately available to comment on the suit.

J.C. Smith, The Pokémon Company’s consumer marketing director, told The Associated Press last week that the company is updating the augmented-reality game so it remains fun for players but respects the real world.

The location-aware game provides virtual rewards for players who visit real sites designated as “Pokéstops” in the game. Several locations, such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., have asked to be removed from “Pokemon Go.”

In New Hampshire, a day care center has been removed from “Pokémon Go” after complaining to game’s developers about strangers lurking around the property.

The Portsmouth Herald reports Little Blessings Child Care Center director Diane Lewis sent a letter to parents and the day care’s two dozen employees explaining that she had seen many random people in the day care’s parking lot and walking the grounds since the game launched last month.

The Portsmouth center appeared as a “gym” in the game. Lewis got in touch with game developer Niantic Labs and had it removed.

She says Little Blessings’ presence in the game was a safety concern and she’s glad it has been dropped.

Documents show a western Pennsylvania hospital system has asked the maker of the addictive cellphone game “Pokémon Go” to remove its facilities from the app out of safety, patient privacy and computer security concerns.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports an internal memo obtained Thursday shows the seven-hospital system Allegheny Health Network has demanded Niantic remove its locations from the app.

The health system also tells employees to report people taking unauthorized pictures.

The note says the system’s locations are included as gym locations in the app because they’re technically public places. Players sometimes meet at the gyms.

Niantic offers an online form to request exclusions, but changes to the game are not automatic. The creators of the game say they’re working to remove real-world locations that don’t wish to be included in the mobile gaming sensation.

The Pokémon Company’s consumer marketing director J.C. Smith said in an interview this week that they’re updating the augmented-reality game so it remains fun for players but respects the real world.

“When something is really popular, we have to figure out the most respectful way to deal with it and make sure that everyone is playing safely and doing things in a respectful manor,” said Smith. “It’s only been two weeks since it launched, and there’s been so much attention and so many people playing that it’s tough to think of all the ways it could affect the world.”

Since the free game launched July 6 for mobile devices and rocketed to the top of the download charts, some players have injured themselves in pursuit of virtual monsters or have been distracted while playing “Pokémon Go” while driving.

“For us, we’re making sure the play experience is done right,” said Smith. “Initially, there was some server overload, which we’ve worked on. Now, we’re looking at features in the game and how to fine-tune them so that it’s appealing to the fans but also respectful of the private institutions that are affected by it.”

Smith wouldn’t offer a timeline of when updates will come to the game.

For some sensitive locations, change has already come to “Pokémon Go.” U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger said the museum had been removed from the game per its wishes.

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