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New York State bans sex offenders from any form of online gaming

Governor ask Niantic for help in creating a "safer environment" for players

New York state Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has instructed local law enforcement in the local Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that registered sex offenders are to be banned from playing any sort of online game, with the particular mention of Pokemon Go.

In an open letter to Niantic, published online, Governor Cuomo indicates his concern over the potential for the abuse of in-game 'lures' to attract groups of children and other vulnerable players towards the homes of paedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders and asks Niantic to help enforce the new laws by offering them access to "the most up-to-date information of offenders within the Sex Offender Registry."

"Protecting our children and ensuring their safety is our top priority, and the State of New York is moving swiftly to respond to troubling news that young children using Pokémon Go are being steered to locations in close proximity to, or even at, sex offender residences," Cuomo writes. "The State has taken action to prohibit sex offenders from using this game, but we need your assistance to make certain that sex offenders will not continue to use Pokémon Go by technologically barring their use. Working together, we can ensure that this danger today does not escalate into a tragedy tomorrow.

"A recent report by Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane Savino clearly demonstrates that more must be done to protect our children from ending up at locations that pose a danger to themselves. In addition, a feature of the game - where, for a small fee, a "lure" can be purchased to intentionally encourage traffic to a particular location - also appears to have the potential to be abused by predators. That is why I have directed the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to reach out to Niantic, Inc. to provide the most up-to-date information of offenders within the Sex Offender Registry.

"With this information, we hope you will be able to prevent identified sex offenders from using this game. DCJS will also contact Apple and Google to inform them of these public safety concerns and will work with them to enhance user safety. Software developers that operate augmented reality games like Pokémon Go should be entitled to the same information that is regularly shared with companies like Facebook, Apple and Microsoft."

The state's laws already require people on the register to provide authorities with all email addresses, screen names and online aliases so that they may be forwarded to service providers for blocking, but the new conditions only apply to those criminals still under their parole conditions, which will cover "nearly 3,000 Level 1, 2 and 3 sex offenders." Senator Diane Savino applauded the changes.

"Pokémon Go entertains our children, but it forgets about the reality of this world: it can be dangerous," said Savino. "Sex offenders who download the game legally could pinpoint hot spots where children congregate, like pokestops or gyms, and meet them in person. The investigation I conducted revealed that these spots were located near the homes of these dangerous individuals. I will continue to fight for legislation to keep our children safe. I thank Governor Cuomo for immediately responding to our investigation in the interest of children across New York State."

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Latest comments (5)

Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer A year ago
I thought the best we'd managed on this front was an NN that spots "uncharacteristic player behaviour"? There's still no way to dependably prohibit someone from getting online, unless I missed a breakthrough?
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft GermanyA year ago
I see what he wants to do, but this is going to be very difficult to properly cover. We are not talking only about "Pokemon Go" here, things like PSN or XBLA would be a lot harder to restrict.
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Dan Pearson Internal Business Editor, Square Enix WestA year ago
I suspect that it's more about retribution than prevention - ie, a way to prosecute in edge cases where police suspect that a registered offender was attempting to entrap but are unable to provide the correct evidence. Once someone is in custody, evidence can be collected from phones, consoles etc to prosecute.
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Daniel Mesonero Producer, Studio 49A year ago
Given that the sex offender registry has some serious issues (for example having sexting teens charged for distribution of child pornography: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/14/when-kids-are-accused-of-sex-crimes) and that not all online games feature chat or geolocation, this law seems rather arbitrary and a case of "somebody think of the children".
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Shane Sweeney Academic A year ago
Great, another unenforceable law that probably won't help anyone
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