Whether it's the FBI secretly using Snapchat filters to map all our faces or Apple's alleged planned obsolescence scheme, people love a good tech-related conspiracy. So, naturally, the phenomenal success of Pokémon Go has birthed some truly exceptional theories about its darker agenda.
If the tin foil-hatted internet sleuthers are to be believed, the massively popular Pikachu-packed augmented reality game is nothing more than a convenient distraction deployed by the CIA and Michelle Obama in order to keep the sheeple calm while they collect all our private data. Or something like that. Here are some of the batshit crazy theories we've found.
It's to distract us from the news and keep us from rioting
Mere days after it hit the app store last week, rumors circulated on Twitter that it was actually a false flag campaign, deployed in the wake of the tragic shootings in order to distract protesters and calm everyone down. This is downright absurd since the game was already being played in Japan as far back as March, but for the cynics among us it suggests that it wouldn't take much for the government to get us to look the other way -- simply calculate the release of some silly game that hits the addictive/nostalgic sweet spot.
It's an agent of capitalism to get us into stores and buy stuff
Of all the crazy theories out there, we must admit, this one holds the most water. Pokémon Go was built by Niantic, the same developer that built another, much less successful augmented reality game called Ingress. They harnessed a lot of the user data from Ingress to build out the mapping features of Pokémon Go (this is why people have been finding Pokéstops in horribly inappropriate places), which is interesting because of what Ingress' data was ultimately intended for: advertising.
Niantic made it pretty clear back in 2014 that part of the vision for Ingress was to get brands to pay to have the game entice players to visit their physical retail locations and buy shit. Makes you wonder whether that's the only reason Pokémon Go exists, especially since Niantic already said it would announce sponsored locations for the game at some point in the future.
It's a surveillance and intelligence-gathering tool for the CIA and/or Google
Pokémon Go accesses an aggressive amount of your personal info. Several redditors and James Corbett, of the decidedly fringe site The Corbett Report, believe that Niantic -- the game's developer -- is just acting as a puppet for Google, which owned the company until last year. The theory is that they're helping Google build a database of maps of the interiors of peoples' homes, buildings, or other private spaces that Google Van and the company's mapping teams don't have access to, by simply tapping into players' cameras.
The other argument is that they're collecting all this info (and tapping your camera) for the CIA. The truthers trace this all back to Niantic Lab's founder and CEO, John Hanke. Before Niantic, Hanke started Keyhole, Inc -- a software company whose groundbreaking mapping platform eventually became Google Earth -- with help from the CIA's own venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Just some food for thought as you chase that Snorlax around your apartment.
It's the big wireless carriers' scheme to make you pay for more data
If you're one of the bajillion people currently in the throes of a Pokémon Go addiction, you've probably noticed it drains the hell out of your battery. You may have also noticed it's a data hog like none other. Could it be that Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and other carriers colluded with Niantic in order to create a guaranteed hit of a game that would also eat through your data plan and force you to fork over overage fees like a desperate junkie? Some people seem to think so.
It's Michelle Obama's way of getting kids to go play outside
Ahhhh, that sweet, sweet life as a lame-duck president. People seem to think that since the Obamas clearly have nothing else going on, they decided to dream up Pokémon Go as one final push to electrify Michelle's Let's Move! campaign. After noticing how quickly it's mobilized an otherwise sedentary population of young people, quite a few are speculating that this was all just a brilliantly executed stunt to get kids exercising outside. Which, well, you know... there are worse things.
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