Pokémon GO may be the most popular mobile game ever, but Volkswagen won't have it. On fears of corporate espionage, the automaker has strictly forbidden roughly 70,000 of its employees to have the game installed.
The augmented reality game that made huge waves worldwide relies on the users' GPS location to have them hunt for Pokémon on a map overlaying their real surroundings.
It's not because Volkswagen is against its employees having a little innocent fun with Pokémon GO — it's because playing the augmented reality game on factory grounds may not be so innocent after all. The carmaker is worried that having its employees playing Pokémon GO would make them susceptible to corporate espionage because the app uses location data, device cameras and data sharing.
This is not the first instance, however, when Pokémon GO is banned over security concerns. Just recently, Iran banned the game for security reasons, albeit some religious beliefs might have something to do with that decision as well. The Pokémon trading card game was also banned in Iran in 2001 because it contained "forbidden images" and went against Iran's gambling ban. Similar concerns may have contributed to the new ban, but it remains unconfirmed.
In Volkswagen's case, religious concerns or other such matters are not at stake, but the automaker does fear that Pokémon GO could compromise some of its secrets. Considering that the game accesses the cameras on players' phones, uses location tagging and data sharing, Volkswagen believes Pokémon GO could get a sneak peek of something it isn't supposed to.
Players could inadvertently disclose corporate secrets in a screenshot of a Pidgey waiting to be caught near a secret Golf project or something, and that would be corporate espionage.
The company could have forbidden employees to play the game on set, at any Volkswagen facility, while otherwise allowing them to play in their free time in non-sensitive environments, such as parks and the like, but the automaker doesn't want to take any chances.
To avoid any such risks of corporate espionage stemming from Pokémon GO, Volkswagen employees cannot have the app installed on the phones they take to work. Moreover, CarScoops notes that employees have their smartphone cameras covered if they have access to key areas, just so they can't take a shot of some upcoming project and leak it prematurely.
The publication further notes that the decision has not affected Pokémon GO players who work at Volkswagen, and the employees are okay with the automaker's decision especially since no rare Pokémon have surfaced on factory grounds — only the common ones that are virtually everywhere.