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State Seeks To Stop Sex Offenders From Playing Pokémon Go

Playing Pokémon Go would soon be illegal for sex offenders in New York if Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way.
Playing Pokémon Go would soon be illegal for sex offenders in New York if Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way. Photo Credit: Facebook

Concerned about the safety of children, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking steps to prevent sex offenders across the state from playing and having access to Pokémon Go.

As a first step, Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to prohibit some 3,000 sex offenders on parole under community supervision from downloading Internet-based games, including Pokémon Go.

In addition, Cuomo wrote a letter to John Hanke, co-creator pf the wildly popular game, requesting that the company behind the Pokémon Go, Niantic Labs, keep sex offenders from having access to the game.

To do so, Cuomo requested that New York's Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) turn over an updated registry of sex offenders to the company to block them from access.

“Protecting New York’s children is priority number one and, as technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don't become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims," Cuomo said. "These actions will provide safeguards for the players of these augmented reality games and help take one more tool away from those seeking to do harm to our children."

 DCJS will also contact Apple and Google to inform them of these public safety concerns and work with them to enhance user safety. 

Software developers that operate mobile games like Pokémon Go should be entitled to the same information that is regularly shared with companies like Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, Cuomo said.

Cuomo took the actions in part because of a recent report by State Sens. Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane Savino that found children playing the game had been steered to locations in close proximity to, or even at, sex offender residences.

Additionally, a feature of the game, where, for a small fee, a "lure" can be purchased to intentionally encourage traffic to a particular location, also appears to have the potential to be abused by predators. Lawmakers said they are afraid sex offenders who download the game legally could pinpoint hot spots where children congregate, like pokestops or gyms, and meet them in person.

"Pokémon Go provided sex offenders with a virtual road map to our children," said Klein said. "We know that pedophiles always seek new ways to lure victims and this new technology that entertains our kids, could also bring them close to dangerous individuals instead of Pokémon. In fact, my Pokémon Go investigation uncovered a disturbing correlation between high level sex offenders' residences and in-game objectives"

Currently in New York, a list of current sex offenders and their email addresses and other information, is given to more than two-dozen social networking companies on a weekly basis and those sites use it to purge offenders from their membership rosters. 

Since enacted in 2008, the state has sent approximately 52,000 records related to 18,544 New York state registered sex offenders of all risk levels to 40 technology companies each week in order to remove them from social network sites.

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