Pokémon GO is now officially banned in Iran.
In what is the latest restriction of Niantic's hit app, the High Council of Virtual Spaces, Iran's official overseer of the country's online activity, ruled to ban Pokémon GO because of "security concerns."
This isn't a ruling that came arbitrarily, though. Iranian officials had been waiting to see to what efforts Niantic would make to cooperate with them before making a decision. However, with Niantic apparently doing nothing to make the game reach Iran's standards, there was little choice for officials but to ban the game outright.
In the meantime, what these security reasons actually are remain unspecified, though it likely pertains to the controversy over how much user data the developer can access. In early July, security analyst Adam Reeve alleged that Niantic would have full access to a user's Google Account, prompting the firm to later state that it was only able to see players' user IDs and email addresses, and it was only able to get that much information because of a bug that the company has started working on.
Of course, it's possible that this security reason is just a front, and if it is, then there's another likely reason why Pokémon GO was banned: religion.
In 2001, Iran's General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars banned the Pokémon trading card game via a fatwa, or a religious ruling. The edict was due to the game containing "forbidden images" and violating an Islamic ban on gambling.
Now in 2016, leading Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh al-Fozan argues that the fatwa issued against the Pokémon card game also applies to Pokémon GO. It's important to note, however, that the fatwa itself isn't necessarily a law for the entire nation - popularity plays a major role. If it doesn't get favor from the majority of the council, a fatwa can only be enacted in certain territories that are overseen by the proposing scholar.
This may be the first time Pokémon GO has been banned in a country, but this certainly isn't the first time the game has fallen under scrutiny in various parts of the world. Both Russia and China have voiced concerns of the game being used by spies to gather information about national secrets, and Indonesia has banned on-duty military and police from playing the game for similar reasons, as well as banning its use outright in the presidential palace.