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Sen. Al Franken questions Pokemon Go creator over data-collection policies

Lawmaker wants game developer Niantic Labs to explain what information it's collecting from users, why and with whom it is sharing that data.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Al Franken is chasing Pokemon Go too, but not for fun.

The US senator, known for championing internet privacy, sent a letter on Tuesday to Niantic Labs, developer of the wildly popular game, demanding to know what data it's collecting from users and sharing with third parties.

"I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing a wide range of users' personal information without their appropriate consent, Franken wrote in a letter (PDF) addressed to Niantic CEO John Hanke. "From a user's general profile information to their precise location data and device identifiers, Niantic has access to a significant amount of information, unless users -- many of whom are children -- opt-out of this collection."

The augment-reality game, which encourages players to go outside and visit specific locations to progress, has become a global phenomenon since its release late last week. The app has been downloaded about 7.5 million times in the US, providing $1.6 million in daily revenue from iOS devices alone, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower.

That explosive growth has also fueled privacy fears. It was revealed on Monday that the game gives Niantic full access to users' Google account, including email, contacts, photos and documents, if they used it to log into the game from an iOS device. In response, Niantic said it's drastically limiting the access it requests going forward and that it didn't access anything beyond user IDs and email addresses.

Franken, who chairs the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, wants Niantic to explain how it "collects a broad array of users' personal information," including their account information, location data and cookies. The Minnesota Democrat also wants Niantic to identify who the company would share anonymized aggregate data with and why.

Franken asked Hanke to respond to his list of seven questions by August 12.

Niantic did not immediately respond to a request for comment.