Monday, March 4, 2013

Google, I told you so - an Ingress player was harassed by the police this evening

Back on December 10, 2012, I wrote a post in this blog entitled For police agencies - did Google educate you on its new Ingress game? Why not? The post noted that in the current post-9/11 environment, the Los Angeles Police Department - perhaps you've heard about them on the news recently - has adopted new guidelines that allow officers to write reports on people doing things such as photographing power plants.

I wrote a follow-up post in my tymshft blog entitled Public safety employees – those people running around your city “hacking” with their smartphones may be playing a Google game (Ingress). The post was designed as an explanation of the game; the explanation would hopefully be beneficial to police officers or firefighters who may be wondering why people would hold mobile devices and utter phrases like "Shall we fire the XMP bursters?" while staring at a fire station or other public building.

At the time I wrote these posts, I received some comments in a Google+ thread:

I strongly believe this is more hype and propaganda to advertise Ingress because its not as popular as they expected (because they have not made it open to everyone yet).

Yet again the #lamestreammedia is blowing stuff out of proportion. Granted, LEOs in different areas have different approaches. Still, the problem is NOT that bad.

Well, tonight I'm interrupting my QR code testing because I just found a local police department that apparently didn't get the memo.

Before telling the story, I should emphasize that this is anecdotal evidence. Just because the police caused problems for one Ingress player doesn't mean that this is anywhere near a universal problem.

Earlier this evening, I read the following comment on Google+:

Just got a visit at home from the police. Apparently traveling on public streets in my small town is not illegal, but they don't like it when it is done to play a game like #Ingress because it spooks the locals.

I asked for more details from the person, and this was the response:

The details are that parking in front of the Fire Department means parking in front of someone's house. They freaked & thought I was a private investigator. He even came up to my car, and I showed him the game. I thought it was fine, but after I got home, I got a visit from the local police. Town is less that 5000 people & is a bedroom community for a small metro area of less than 100,000 people.

I even suggested that I would request the Fire Department be removed (sharing space with the police department) but he didn't even want it at the library or post office on Main St with no homes around.

He couldn't do anything because I didn't break any laws, but you can bet they will be looking for any potential broken laws if I don't stop playing.

At this point, a second person chimed into the conversation with this:

Couple days ago firewired got an $88.00 ticket for making an illegal left hand turn playing ingress in the dells.

Now that is understandable. As I stated in my prior posts, breaking the law is breaking the law - and an illegal left hand turn is, by definition, illegal.

But the first case isn't understandable. Certainly there's some gray area for cases in which someone may be "disturbing the peace" or whatever. But after the Ingress player explained to the resident AND to the police that the Ingress player was NOT a private investigator, that should have been the end of it.

However, the Ingress player's comment that the police officer "didn't even want it at the library or post office on Main St with no homes around" indicates that this is far from a closed issue.

And, incidentally, this is the reason why I have not mentioned the name of the Ingress player, or of the player's city of residence, in this post.

But it's a pretty safe bet that the city in question won't be getting any Google high speed broadband any time soon.

Despite the fact that the town's own library - you know, the one that the cops don't want as an Ingress location - actually has a page on Hot chocolate, coffee, and tea are available for $1 a cup, according to the site.

Even to Ingress players.

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