It’s 2016, Pokémon are (augmentedly) real, and everyone is losing their minds. After a week of traffic accidents, cliff accidents, trespassing, and mobs descending on public spaces, it is time for cooler heads to prevail, and various governments and nonprofit organizations are stepping in to provide some level-headed guidelines for catching ‘em all.
Including, it seems, the U.S. Department of Defense.
Within the U.S. government, operations security (OPSEC) refers to the process intelligence officers and other government workers follow to protect unclassified information that could be used by adversaries to cause harm. Generally, it means being aware of what you’re posting on social media, writing in emails, or talking about in public, keeping in mind that such information could make its way into an adversary’s hands.
Since Pokémon Go uses GPS, there’s good reason for military officers and other government workers to be mindful of OPSEC considerations before playing the game. Six days ago, in fact, an anonymous member of the military posted to Reddit’s r/pokemongo forum to ask other servicemembers if the game presented an OPSEC concern.
Currently deployed in Afghanistan and wanna Catch em’ All. Anyone see any concerns or problems with Opsec regarding base location ect [sic] before I download and get Poke-weird all over the base?” the conscientious soldier wrote.
Fellow Redditors replied that they thought it would be fine, since location data isn’t (currently) shared with other users. But apparently, the government has officially weighed in on the matter, according to a document posted on Twitter by Thomas Rid.
US Government operational security guidance for intelligence officers and friends playing Pokémon GO— Thomas Rid (@RidT) July 16, 2016
According to the guidelines, which Rid claims were shared with him by a government officer, OPSEC best practices include avoiding playing the game anywhere that shouldn’t be geo-tagged, not using a personal Gmail account with the game or a username associated with your social media accounts, exercising caution when taking pictures of Pokémon with the in-game AR camera, and staying aware of your surroundings. As Rid notes, generally good advice even if you aren’t an intelligence officer.
The security-minded advice follows a wave of safety tips from police departments and organizations across the country. In the past week, the Fairfax County Police Department, Concord Police Department, Auburn Police Department (site of this week’s Pokémon Go-related car accident), San Francisco Police Department, Connecticut State Police, and the Greater New York Red Cross have all issued safety checklists for playing the game. They all provide the same common sense tips: be aware of your surroundings, don’t trespass, travel in pairs or groups, and don’t try to catch Pokémon while you’re driving a car.
The game hasn’t been around long enough to determine whether the current craze is a short-term fad or a permanent shift in our priorities as a society; either way, players will hopefully begin to take these safety guidelines to heart.