‘Spy Tool’ Concerns As Pokémon Mania Grips Saudi Arabia


By Mohammed Al-Sulami

As the global obsession with smartphone game Pokémon Go intensifies, many have taken to Twitter and social media sites to warn about the impact of the game on social life and the security of citizens and the country.

Pokémon Go works via GPS technology, using the phone camera to search for Pokémon characters and hunt them down.

While some claim the game could be a breach of privacy for users and their mobile phones, more serious concerns revolve around the possible threats to national security, as in the course of playing the game, sensitive sites, such as security buildings, houses of worship, foreigners’ residential complexes, embassies, consulates and others may be photographed.

Many observers and commentators on social media warn that the game, like others, may also be penetrated by terrorist organizations who use it to contact youths and recruit them.

They are calling on authorities to closely examine such games and their potential danger to national security, as well as the possibility that they may become tools for terrorists, enemy countries or spy agencies wishing to collect data and information about sensitive locations.

Nayef Al-Subaie, an expert in technology, says the danger of these games is that they use live stream technology connected to the Internet and GPS, while those who play the game have limited understanding of where the stream is uploaded or what sites they may be led to during the game, “potentially embassies, consulates, military installations, oil refineries and our cities”.

Such images may be used by foreign organizations, as was the case with the Baqeeq refinery, which was monitored by Al-Qaeda and attacked on Feb. 29, 2006, he said.

Naser Al-Qahtani, an electronic security expert, said these games can be easily accessed and used to spy on individuals, as well as infected with viruses. They can collect the largest possible amount of information and images from users around the world.

Information security experts have issued reminders that Saudi Arabia is constantly subjected to a large number of electronic attacks due to its special military, security and economic strength, which makes the game, and others of its kind, a cause for concern.

Hamed Al-Haddad, a citizen, says security authorities must intervene immediately to ban this game in the Kingdom until it is properly studied to identify any potential dangers, especially to society or the national security.

Other concerns about the game, says Masoud Al-Ali, are that it requests links to the users’ personal information and e-mails, and its highly addictive nature causes users to lose touch with their surroundings and reality, and pay no attention to potential risks.

The game has caused global hysteria in the past few days, but it has yet to be introduced to the Arab markets.

Saudis, however, were able to upload the game by using “proxies” and relocating to countries where the game already exists.

Some parents warn about the game, which pose potential hazards to their children because characters sometimes appear in dangerous places, such as the middle of a road or in suspicious sites.

Some even hunt down the Pokémon characters using bicycles and cars, which may lead to accidents.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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