FYI Folks. Pokemon Go was made by Niantic Inc. Niantic Inc is a company that was formed by Keyhole Inc. Keyhole Inc was a company that received investment capital from In-Q-Tel (that also invested in Facebook) which is THE VENTURE CAPITAL FIRM OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. So, when you're playing your stupid Pokemon Go game just know you are helping the CIA domestically spy on American citizens.
So keep that in mind when you are out walking the dog, hitting up a park, setting out lures etc in your attempts to catch make believe creatures in your augmented reality app. Congrats, you are now a a free contractor for the CIA helping them to violate the part of their 1947 charter that prevents them from spying domestically on American citizens.
Now, you ask "Why does this even matter?" which is a valid question. Let's take a look
- Within a week they have millions of users, carrying their phones around with GPS on and data being sent back to the servers.
- The app uses augmented reality, deploying virtual pokemon at locations your phone's camera is actively viewing
- In my neighborhood all of the 'gyms' and 'stops' are the town's town hall, churches and veteran groups like the VFW.
So you have a company with direct ties to the CIA having millions of users walking around with GPS and cameras that are frequenting government, religious and veteran buildings pointing their camera at said locations. Say they have satellite coverage of an area and are surveilling someone of interest but they need to see what is going on better. What do they do? "We have x users in the area, deploy a new gym or stop or deploy a lure from a fictitious account now people should start congregating in the area giving us multiple vantage points without us needed to put assets on the ground. Once people start showing up deploy our own assets on the ground, no one will think a thing about them pointing their phone at them as they are used to all of the Pokemon Go players in the area doing the same".
Well one, they aren't watching you, they wouldn't watch you, they'd watch what your phone is pointed at. Or listen.
Just because a camera isn't displaying on screen, doesn't mean it isn't on. It would be trivial to have it not display the camera's feed. Access to the camera also includes access to the microphones. Satellites don't have microphones, planting a 'bug' requires physical access and wiretaps are only good for rooms that contain a phone (microphones can be turned on to listen to a room without the phone actively making a call).
It, again, would be trivial for the app developer to turn on a transmit feature at will and turn on the camera(s) and microphone(s) if the app is running. Not saying that they are, or intend to, but literally a line or two of code would allow for it. Then it simply transmits back to the server when active and the vast majority of users never experience a data spike.
Another line of code and oh hey send at a low resolution with the app compressing it on the fly with the ability to increase the resolution if they indeed have a feed of something of interest.
The microphone(s) could transmit audio with minimal bandwidth to overhear conversations or even environmental noise. For audio, depending on quality, you are talking 6-50kbps. At 50kbps you are talking 160 seconds of audio per megabyte of data.
Now folks, keep in mind this post is largely tongue in cheek. However don't dismiss it as a work of fiction, the company and investment connections are real. The technology could really be used in the fashion I outlined above. Is it? Probably not. Is the CIA thinking "damn, he ruined that future idea for us" haha maybe. Did the specific app Pokemon Go receive CIA funding, who knows! Just be mindful of what you install on your phone and where you are pointing that phone when the camera is on. Respect the privacy of others. And stop trespassing to catch your silly imaginary cartoon characters.
Haha have fun guys! :)