>> Pokémon GO - TO SPOOF OR NOT TO SPOOF (part 3)
It was just a matter of time before I checked out the fine print to see what
the TOS actually say.
If you have been following this blog - you know I am a big fan of the
Augmented Reality game we all know as
With millions of players worldwide, it didn't take long for hackers and
developers alike to jump on board with the popularity of the game and provide
third party services, to which Niantic have responded with various cease and
desist letters. I have been covering GPS spoofing to enhance the game
experience - but where do users stand legally?
As with everything legal; interpretation is key - if anything is ambiguous,
then loopholes appear.
Niantic has posted a very comprehensive
Terms of Service
for Pokémon GO which users must agree to before playing the game.
As with most end-user license agreements (EULA) - it is surprising how many
people just scroll down and click on 'accept' just to get started. In most
cases; most users have no idea what this means for their privacy - until it
Under the Conduct, General Prohibitions, and Niantic's Enforcement
Rights section there is a nice shopping list of what players can
and cannot do - they've made it clear about interaction between users,
stealing intellectual property, tampering, hacking, or violating any
applicable laws. At first glance; you would say they've done a great job
of covering their backsides.
The clause that is potentially relevant in regards to GPS spoofing is here:
attempt to access or search the Services or Content, or download
Content from the Services through the use of any technology or means
other than those provided by Niantic or other generally available
third-party web browsers (including, without limitation, automation
software, bots, spiders, crawlers, data-mining tools, or hacks, tools,
agents, engines, or devices of any kind);
It is clear that Niantic has a 'use our game as we intend' policy - so
the use of third party applications that simulate the game, such as bots
that catch Pokémon for you or using tools that help you access their
content (such as the location of Pokémon) are absolutely prohibited.
Well - that should be clear right? Unfortunately - it isn't.
As a developer; the concept of "Mock Location Data" is essential for
anyone who writes applications with location aware attributes; in fact;
you can read all about it on the
Android Developer Guide
website specific for the topic. Right off the bat; every Android device
has this capability built in, allowing users (developers) to simulate
a GPS co-ordinates on their device.
In fact; Google even provides the ability for application developers to
check if location mocking is actually in place - there are solutions posted
even a third party library exists to detect the use of mock locations
(MockLocationDetector). It should be quite simple for Niantic
to perform the relevant checks to see if users are GPS spoofing - if this
is in fact a violation.
The TOS (legally binding document) do not specifically say anything about
mock locations - but Niantic add confusion to the topic in their
Pokémon GO Trainer Guidelines and specifically state:
Don’t do it. Play fair. Pokémon GO is meant to be played on a mobile
device and get you outside to explore your world! Methods of cheating,
unfortunately, are limited only by cheaters’ imaginations, but include
at a minimum the following: using modified or unofficial software;
playing with multiple accounts (one account per player, please);
sharing accounts; using tools or techniques to alter or falsify your
location; or selling/trading accounts.
If someone is using a mock location application - it doesn't mean they are
violating the terms of service, the "guidelines" are not legally binding. If
you are using such techniques; you still need to encounter a Pokémon,
catch it (not always easy), train it and fight as per usual in gym battles.
In fact; you can do it all from the official Pokémon GO client -
you are not using any third party tools other than what is provided by the
operating system of the mobile device.
I can fully understand Niantic's position on third party applications that
attempt to replace the official client and give users the ability to catch
Pokémon, walk to hatch eggs and snipe gym slots automatically - by
all means they should be banned from the game. But surely they must understand
that their game mechanics do not favour all trainers in the world.
I had the luxury of being able to travel, visit a number of different
continents and catch those elusive, regional Pokémon and make my way
to a prestigious level thirty - but my home base was riddled with Rattata's,
Pidgeys and it was always the same. I never encountered a rare Pokémon
in my rural town - I had to go to the city to do that. If they want to promote
going outdoors, put rare Pokémon on hiking trails, tourist locations -
not in the city where there is already an issue with density of people;
encouraging people to go in to catch Pokémon is going to cause more
I've enjoyed the game - you'll be losing a lot of good players; focus on
those who automate, not those who actively play the game - yet may venture
out of their restricted location to explore the world virtually. At least
they wont get mugged or attacked from the safety of their own home.