The Pokémon Go craze has exposed people who play the game to new dangers that have previously not been associated with mobile phone apps. But while many of these perils are associated with individuals who actually play the game, companies also have a lot to lose because of the game. To play Pokémon Go, players follow their phone’s GPS, which leads them to various places in the real world where they encounter and capture in-game creatures called Pokémon. In their zeal to catch these virtual critters, players have been robbed at gunpoint after walking into alleyways, been shot at for trespassing on private property, been hit by cars after walking into traffic – and even fallen off cliffs. While these are all personal dangers, businesses also face risks, such as: • Workers’ compensation, if an employee plays the game while on the clock and gets hurt. • Data breaches, if employees who play the game on a company-issued mobile device download malware or are victims of phishing attempts. • Property liability, if players wander on to your business premises and are injured.
Workplace safety – The highly addictive game cuts across many demographics in terms of usage and is putting people in danger if they play it and are not paying attention. And since most people have jobs, the same people who play Pokémon Go are also employees, including yours. As mentioned, many people have been injured playing the game. Already you must know that your employees are spending time on their smart phones doing things that are not associated with their jobs. It doesn’t take much stretching of the imagination to understand that employees will play the game while on the clock. If they play while driving on the job, they can not only injure themselves, but also add further liability if they injure someone else or damage a third party’s property. You may also have your own damaged property as a result.
Cyber security – The game was created by a company called Niantic Labs, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. Problems at Niantic Labs have added to the security issues with Pokémon Go. Because of the company’s scalability problems, millions of users have had to download the app from third-party websites, where some of the software contains malware along with the game.
One version of the malware, called DroidJack, is able to gain access to anything on your Android phone, including all of your e-mail, contacts and text messages. In addition, this malware can access your keystrokes, on-board microphone and camera. Now, imagine that an employee has downloaded the game onto their company-issued phone and that phone has as a result become a conduit for criminals to access your network.
Other liability – Businesses also face potential liability, as Pokémon Go players wander premises where they can hurt themselves. Construction sites carry specific dangers to anyone not paying attention if they enter the property. These include open trenches, trip hazards and nails and other fasteners strewn on the ground. There was one report from Idaho of a Pokémon Go player wandering onto a farm and almost falling into a grain elevator. So, if you have another commercial facility and players wander in and fall and hurt themselves, you could be held liable. Even if you face a lawsuit and eventually win, it will still cost you mounds in defense costs.
The takeaway You should work with your company counsel to develop policies to address the phenomenon. These can include forbidding employees from playing the game on a company-owned device, while driving or during work hours. You will also have to ensure that your properties are secure, especially after hours, to thwart overzealous Pokémon Go players from stepping onto your facilities and injuring themselves. If you have security on your grounds, you should alert them to stop players from wandering into unauthorized areas