Cyprus Mail

DIKO MP calls for ban on Pokemon Go, sparks social media debate

DIKO MP Angelos Votsis has stirred up a debate on social media after suggesting that the Pokemon Go game should be banned in Cyprus.

Over the weekend, Votsis posted the following on his personal Facebook account:

“I don’t know whether this might sound backward, but given that the use of Pokemon Go may turn out to be dangerous both for those playing it as well as the rest of the people, why not ban it?

“Must we suffer deadly accidents, involving either the players or unsuspecting citizens, before it is banned?”

The MP from Limassol did not at the time elaborate on how such a ban might be enforced. He could not be reached for a comment on Monday.

But his Facebook posting sparked a variety of reactions on social media. One individual commented that there is no need for “Erdogan-style” bans, alluding to the ongoing crackdown in Turkey.

The same person added that laws already exist penalising the use of mobile phones while driving.

But other punters appeared to agree with Votsis’ idea.

To date, two countries – Saudi Arabia and Egypt – have banned Pokemon Go.

CNET also reports that a Shinto shrine located in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, has outright banned the playing of Pokemon Go on its premises.

The shrine, made a national treasure in 1952, released a statement on its website following the game release in Japan on Thursday.

It came after the Holocaust Museum had to ask people to stop catching Pokemon on its premises. The Auschwitz Museum in Poland had to do the same, CBS News reported.

Last week, the REACTION Road Safety group in Cyprus warned that dangers surrounding use of the game are on the rise.

According to the NGO, there have been incidents with drivers stopping in the middle of the road to hunt for Pokemon, or even repeatedly circling a roundabout until one appears.

“Pedestrians move on the road network, especially highways, at great risk of being run over by passing cars,” the NGO’s chief said.

The Cyprus Mail contacted police spokesman Andreas Angelides, who said that so far no dangerous incidents or near-collisions due to Pokemon Go have come to the police’s attention.

He cited the law, which calls for driving with both hands free and likewise penalises reckless driving.

“This applies to all kinds of situations, whether you’re holding a sandwich or a mobile phone,” he said.

A ban due to safety concerns would seem too draconian. Rather, using Pokemon Go or any other app should be a matter of personal choice.

But at the same time, there has been little to no discussion in Cyprus on the invasiveness of the application.

Part of downloading the game involves giving complete access to the information on phones, the camera and a person’s Google account. The app can also access and browse your contacts, Google Drive documents and photos.

The maker of the app, Niantic, has since changed the permissions Pokemon Go uses, and has said the initial email access was a mistake.

The game’s privacy police reads: “We may disclose any information about you (or your authorized child) that is in our possession or control to government or law enforcement officials or private parties.”

Niantic was an internal Google start-up founded by John Hanke, also the founder of Keyhole, Inc., a mapping company financially backed by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, that was incorporated into Google Maps.

In-Q-Tel also provided part of the seed money for Facebook, which some have described as a massive data-mining app.


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