According to press reports, German car giant Volkswagen has banned its employees from using the wildly popular smartphone app Pokémon GO during work hours. Reportedly, the company cited impaired attention and distraction from work as the primary grounds for the prohibition, but data security and privacy issues are supposedly involved as well. Volkswagen has not yet made an official statement on the ban.
The Concept of Augmented Reality
The app is based on the concept of “augmented reality,” meaning that the real world environment is “augmented” with virtual elements. The app relies on the users’ GPS location data and images taken by their smartphones’ camera devices to let them catch virtual Pokémon monsters on a map overlaying their real surroundings. The real world is used as the setting for the chase.
Data Protection and Privacy Concerns
The rules on the collection, use and disclosure of personal data differ among jurisdictions. For example, pursuant to section 3 para. 1 of the German Federal Data Protection Act, personal data is defined as “any information concerning the personal or material circumstances of an identified or identifiable individual.” Within the territory of application of that act, the collection, processing and use of personal data is only permissible in rare prescribed circumstances (see section 4) or with the consent of the data subject. The requirements might be significantly lower in other countries.