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  • A Pokemon appears on the screen next to a woman as a man plays the augmented reality mobile game "Pokemon Go" by Nintendo in Bryant Park in New York City.

    A Pokemon appears on the screen next to a woman as a man plays the augmented reality mobile game "Pokemon Go" by Nintendo in Bryant Park in New York City. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 July 2016

The game already has longer user times than Facebook, more users than Twitter and averages US$1.6 million in revenue a day.

Pokemon Go has direct links to the CIA, with several board members and creators maintaining ongoing relations with the agency’s In-Q-Tel venture capital firm.

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While the extent to which the CIA has access to the game’s data is unclear, In-Q-Tel, according to its mission, “identifies, adapts, and delivers innovative technology solutions to support the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency and broader U.S. Intelligence Community.”

In-Q-Tel’s co-founder and first CEO Gilman Louie is on the Pokemon Go board, and his venture capitalist firm Alop Louie — whose board also includes Bill Crowell, former chairman of the Director of National Intelligence — provided major investments.

Louie provided his “personal experience,” which included developing the Falcon F-16 simulator, and Alsop Louie “will be bringing its expertise in gaming and related technologies,” said a statement by Pokemon Go’s creator, Niantic.

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Niantic was founded as an internal startup of Google — which was seed-funded by the CIA and the National Security Agency — by John Hanke in 2010. Hanke received extensive funding from In-Q-Tel when he founded Keyhole — later acquired by Google — which specialized in military reconnaissance systems, developed Google Earth’s app Google Viewer, and had an In-Q-Tel member on its board.

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Programs developed with In-Q-Tel funding have been known to directly benefit national intelligence, such as Geofeedia, which has helped police departments analyze social media to predict the location and even level of violence at protests, including Greenpeace, Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter. Keyhole also benefited directly from the Iraq War because of its 3D flyby imagery.

"One of the problems (Keyhole) faced as a small company was getting exposure," said gaming executive Dan Vivoli in a 2003 interview with USA Today. "This will certainly help."

If Pokemon Go’s developments in augmented reality technology are not of interest to the CIA, the app also has access to all of a user’s Google account information — unless the user installs an update — which the NSA can access indirectly.

The game already has longer user times than Facebook, more users than Twitter and averages US $1.6 million in revenue a day.


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