Popularity of Pokemon GO ratcheting up issue of releasing map data to Google

Posted on : 2016-07-19 17:55 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
South Korean government to decide by Aug. 25 whether to release data to Google, which has no server in South Korea
Scenes from Pokemon Go
Scenes from Pokemon Go

Google’s request for map data is heating up with the growing popularity of Pokemon GO, a mobile game in which users capture virtual characters in real-world places.

The game currently has over one million users in South Korea, despite not having been officially launched here yet.

An examination of data from the mobile market research firm WiseApp on July 18 showed some 1.03 million people installing Pokemon GO in South Korea over the eight days between July 8 and 15. Many are now arguing that the game requires detailed Google maps to be played seriously - and that Seoul should hand over map data requested by Google. Signature campaigns have also been launched on portal sites to demand the data export be allowed.

Pokemon GO operates on Google maps and Global Positioning System (GPS) data. On June 2, Google formally requested permission from the South Korean government to allow map data to be exported.

Seoul has maintained that Pokemon GO and Google’s data request are two separate issues. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which oversees Google map export issues, has said the game “uses GPS functions and does not require precise map data.”

“If Pok?mon GO is launched in South Korea, it should absolutely be possible to play with the map data Google currently possesses,” said a source with the National Geographic Information Institute (NGII).

Indeed, Ingress, a location-based game launched in 2014 by Niantic - the same company that developed Pokemon GO - currently operates in South Korea with the same map data as Pok?mon GO.

The South Korean government now has to make a decision on the map data export issue before Aug. 25.

“It would be inappropriate for a game’s popularity to influence the consideration of map exporting,” said an NGII source.

“The decision will be based on a range of factors including national security, fairness with regard to domestic companies, and tax evasion issues,” the source added.

Domestic companies in related fields have been outspoken in their objections to exporting map data.

“Any proper company should pay their fair share of taxes on sales that occur in a particular country,” said Naver chairperson Lee Hae-jin in a talk with reporters on July 15.

“They’re being told to keep a server in South Korea and offer the service that way, not to not do business at all,” Lee added. “With Google’s technological capabilities, it’s not like they can’t keep a server in South Korea.”

“Does it make sense for a company to demand changes to the law without doing its duty as a company?” Lee asked.

By Kim So-youn, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]



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