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Pokémon, oh no

Watch out! Everyone’s favorite 90s game is back, this time in the form of a mobile phone application.  That’s right, with Nintendo’s release of its new “Pokémon Go” mobile game, people throughout America are catching Pokémon fever again.

Confused about how the game works?  Well, “Pokémon Go” uses your mobile phone’s GPS to spot virtual Pokémon on a game map pinned to real world locations. When you find a Pokémon on your game map, whether it be in a supermarket or your bathroom, your smartphone camera opens, giving you a view of the virtual Pokémon in the real world.  You then flick a Poké Ball toward the creature to capture it.  As you move around playing the game, different types of Pokémon will appear on your game map depending on where you are and what time it is.  The more Pokémon and items you collect, the better chance you have at beating your friends.

As you can imagine, the game has caused people to venture into many different locations in order to catch Pokémon.  For instance, it has been reported people have caught Pokémon in places like: their neighbor’s backyard, at schools, at funerals and even at hospitals (while the gamer’s wife was in labor).  This game also poses a substantial security risk to users when they agree to allow “full access permission” to users’ Google accounts during sign-up.  When playing the game as a member of the military, it is important to remember a few certain rules:

(1) Don’t select the sign up method that links the game to your Google account.
There are two methods of sign up to play “Pokémon Go.”  The first, which is more extensive, is to sign up for a “Trainer Club” account on the game website.  The second option is to simply link the app to your Google account.  While this may be a tempting option, the security risk is not worth it.  When linking the app to your Google account, you are granting the game programmers full access to your Google account including saved Google Drive documents, personal data, email, personal photos and more.  If you gotta catch ’em all, make sure you sign up through the game website.

(2) Don’t play “Pokémon Go” while walking in uniform.
“Pokémon Go” requires gamers to walk around with the app open on their devices to play the game. According to AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, dated July 18, 2011, paragraph 6.3.3.2, it is unacceptable to walk in uniform and use any personal electronic media devices, earpieces or speakerphones unless it is an emergency situation or notifications are necessary.   At last check, catching your first Snorlax outside of the Base Exchange while in uniform does not constitute an emergency situation.

(3) Don’t trespass while playing “Pokemon Go.”
Since the game’s release, numerous people throughout America have already been disciplined for trying to catch a Pokémon in unauthorized areas.  In Washington, for instance, law enforcement officials have already had to apprehend several eager Pokémon Go players for trespassing at a local police station while playing the game.  At a military installation, it would be extremely wise to not visit an unauthorized area in order to catch the nearest Charizard.  Yes, the all-powerful Mewtwo may be sitting on the flight line waiting for you to catch it. And yes, catching Mewtwo on the flight line may help you beat your friends at the game.  However, catching even the most powerful Pokémon is not worth the risk of disciplinary action.  Jumping the fence to visit an unauthorized area on base can trigger emergency alerts across base and cause you to lose all of your Pokémon Go playing rights.

 (4) Be mindful of your pictures.
One of “Pokémon Go” features allows you to see Pokémon in the real world around you by utilizing your phone’s camera.  While capturing that elusive Eevee, you even have the option of taking a picture or a screen shot of the encounter.  While taking pictures of your dog making new best friends with Moltres and posting them to social media is all good fun, taking pictures of classified areas, privileged information or any number of other confidential, privacy act or for official use only information, is not. 

(5) Don’t stop your car in the middle of the road to catch a Pokémon.
Even though you may spot a Jigglypuff in a busy intersection, you may not stop your car in the middle of the road unless it is an emergency situation.  Think this is common sense?  Well, a woman in Australia was seen playing the game in a busy intersection during rush hour. Trust us, Jigglypuff is not worth the risk of getting a ticket anyways.

(6) Whether on or off base, be mindful of where you are playing the game.
“Pokémon Go” is gaining national attention both for its popularity as well as the presence of characters in inappropriate locations.  Examples of inappropriate places where people have played “Pokémon Go” include the Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Whether in uniform or not, you are always “on-duty” as a member of the military and should act appropriately at all times.  Additionally, be careful where you are going while playing.  The O’Fallon, Missouri police department reported the game has allegedly been used to lure victims into specific locations so that they can more discreetly be robbed.  Wherever you are, maintain awareness at all times.

In the end, “Pokémon Go” may be the hottest game on the market. However, it is important that military members use common sense when playing the game.  No game, or Pokémon, is worth putting your career in jeopardy.  Nonetheless, enjoy competing against your friends, enjoy acting like a child again, and catch them all (when legally acceptable).

For more information: http://www.cnet.com/news/pokemon-go-gotta-catch-all-your-personal-data/.