Pokémon GO: Our open letter to Nintendo UK

Our open letter to the MD of Nintendo UK from NSPCC CEO, Peter Wanless.

Dear Mr Wegnez,

I am writing regarding the troubling reports concerning your new app, Pokémon Go, which appears susceptible to being hijacked by users who wish to harm other players and as such raises fundamental child safety concerns.

Within days of your product launching, there have been numerous accounts of children being placed in dangerous situations because of the geo-location feature – in one instance it is reported that armed robbers lured teenagers to a particular spot using your game and in another that players are taken to a sex shop.

As I am certain you are aware, the UK is leading the way when it comes to child safety online and whilst your app is not yet launched in the UK, reports suggest that it is already posing a danger to our young people. It is well documented that the internet provides a gateway for adults who would wish to exploit and prey on children and apps without appropriate safety features inbuilt into the design help them in this.

"Given Pokémon’s already massive popularity with children, the NSPCC is concerned that basic safety standards appear to have been overlooked."
Peter Wanless / CEO, NSPCC

I urge you to urgently reassess your app and its security and safety features. We all have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected and as creators of a game with substantive reach, you have a weighty responsibility to protect your young users.

I understand you have delayed the launch of the app in the UK. I’m asking you to use this opportunity to reassess its safety and ensure you have security and reporting functions which will still allow children to play but, crucially, keep them safe when they do.

During the last 3 years, the UK Government has been working alongside industry to prioritise child safety online. Yet all too often we see examples of companies simply not doing enough to protect children – their safety is an afterthought. This cannot go on – children live in a digital age, it is a standard feature of their lives.

"[Children's] welfare must be a standard consideration when developing products that companies know children will use."
Peter Wanless / CEO, NSPCC

As members of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), the NSPCC will raise this as an issue of concern at the next meeting. However, we urge you to look at the guide, developed by UKCCIS this year, which was developed for social media and interactive services to ingrain online child safety into web or mobile businesses.

The NSPCC would be happy to work with you in any way to offer parents and young people reassurance that a game they want to be able to trust has child safety clearly designed into it ahead of its introduction to the UK.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Wanless

CC Niantic Labs, Inc



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