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    July 2016

    Pokémon GO: Security Concerns for Educational Institutions

    Pokémon GO: Security Concerns for Educational Institutions

    Pokémon GO and similar augmented reality games raise security concerns for educational institutions because some players with no affiliation with an institution, and students and staff will be roaming around campus, focused on their playing experience. Less than a week after its July 2016 launch, a market intelligence firm estimated that Pokémon GO had reached 7.5 million downloads in the U.S., and its popularity is growing. Institutions should take steps to manage the risks of such games.

    Pokémon GO focuses on “capturing” virtual creatures known as Pokémon appearing on device screens at physical Points of Interest (POI) where the game developer distributed them—without consulting property owners. Google Maps and some cities have begun creating maps to help players locate these POI.

    Pokémon GO players are often completely distracted by chasing and capturing Pokémon, which creates new risks. For example, three players on the University of Maryland campus had their phones stolen, and campus police at the University of Wisconsin and Chapman University, among others, warned people to be careful when playing the game. In some cases, the game can become a public nuisance. In mid-July, the College of the Ozarks, concerned about disturbing visitors to the Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a Sept. 11 memorial on its campus, requested that people refrain from playing Pokémon GO in those areas.

    Consider the following steps to manage the risks of Pokémon GO and similar games on your campus:

    • Explain the game to staff who are unfamiliar with the game, and caution them that they may see an increase in unaffiliated visitors entering campus grounds to play
    • When possible (e.g., if they can be determined using maps), identify for staff the POI on campus where players are likely to congregate
    • Ask campus security officers and groundskeepers to help identify areas where players may be particularly vulnerable because of poor lighting and unsecured or restricted access
    • Consider initiatives to improve safety in crosswalks or other high traffic areas
    • Similarly, consider repairing or removing broken pavement or barriers on paths and walkways that may pose dangers to pedestrians
    • Offer safety advice to students and employees who play the game, such as these tips from police:
      • Remain alert and aware of your surroundings
      • Play in pairs or as a group in well-lit areas
      • Do not drive or ride your bike, skateboard, or other device while playing the game
      • Do not trespass on private property
      • Avoid areas where you normally would not go when not playing the game
      • Be aware that the game may be used as bait to lure players into dangerous situations

    The National Center for Campus Public Safety notes that some campus security departments may prefer to have campus POI removed or changed. For more information on how to do so, visit http://pokemongo.nianticlabs.com/en/ and click “Support”.

    By Mike Kruft, LMS administrator, and Hillary Pettegrew, senior risk management counsel

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