Even if you’ve never met him and have only seen his movies, it seems fair to categorize Oliver Stone as a pretty paranoid dude. His upcoming film Snowden tells the story of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Stone provided some thematically consistent commentary on mass surveillance of American citizens at the Comic-Con panel for the movie earlier today. Basically, Stone thinks that we’re a bunch of chumps who have willingly laid the groundwork to a totalitarian state, all for the sake of pretend-capturing cartoon monsters.
No, Stone doesn’t trust this whole Pokémon Go thing one little bit, calling it “a new level of invasion.” Assuming—probably correctly—that many in the audience already had their app downloaded to their phones, he told the crowd, “they are data mining every person in this room. It’s what they call surveillance capitalism.” And there is some evidence to back up his view. The permissions on the app require that not only Pokémon Go know where you are (your location) and what you’re doing (your camera), it can access your contacts and the USB storage on your phone:
— dade (@0xdade) July 11, 2016
And that’s not taking into account the “erroneous request” that Pokémon Go made upon its launch, requiring full access permission from users signing in through Google. Game developer Niantic says it’s fixed the error and now only accesses your user ID and email address, but who knows how much data was gathered—probably just for marketing purposes, but who knows, man—before that happened. (Appropriately/sinisterly enough, a recent Congressional inquiry into the game doesn’t address these privacy concerns, but whether it’s sucking up more data than it lets on.)
Stone went on to say that apps like Pokémon Go could help usher in a “robot society,” which is a little more far-fetched. But 30 years ago, people questioned the idea of police departments mounting CCTV cameras in public places, and now we barely even notice when ads for things we were looking at on completely different websites pop up in our Facebook feeds. So Pokémon Go is the least of our problems, really. Japan’s still nervous as hell about it, though.