No Pokemon Go for sex offenders on parole in New York

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Monday, August 1, 2016

HACKETTSTOWN, New Jersey (WABC) -- Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday directed the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to restrict sex offenders under community supervision from using Pokemon GO and similar games.

Cuomo also sent a letter to software developer Niantic, requesting their assistance in prohibiting dangerous sexual predators from playing the popular app.

"Protecting New York's children is priority number one and, as technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don't become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims," Cuomo said. "These actions will provide safeguards for the players of these augmented reality games and help take one more tool away from those seeking to do harm to our children."

The Department of Corrections imposed a new condition of parole for sex offenders under community supervision that will prohibit them from downloading, accessing or otherwise engaging in any Internet-enabled gaming activities, including Pokemon GO. The directive will apply to nearly 3,000 Level 1, 2 and 3 sex offenders currently on parole. The Department of Criminal Justice Services will additionally be providing guidance to county probation offices recommending the adoption of this policy.

Cuomo directed the department to reach out to Niantic to provide the most up-to-date information of offenders within the Sex Offender Registry, and Apple and Google will be contacted to inform them of the public safety concerns and work with them to enhance user safety. Software developers that operate mobile games like Pokemon GO should be entitled to the same information that is regularly shared with companies like Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.

These actions were spurred by a recent report by Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane Savino demonstrating that children playing this popular augmented reality game have unknowingly been steered to locations in close proximity to, or even at, sex offender residences.

Additionally, 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.

"Pokemon GO provided sex offenders with a virtual road map to our children," Klein said. "We know that pedophiles always seek new ways to lure victims and this new technology that entertains our kids, could also bring them close to dangerous individuals instead of Pokemon."

Klein says the game is "great" for entertaining players, but it could be exploited by sexual predators looking for easy prey.