ALBANY — The New York Civil Liberties Union is opposing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s order to ban convicted sex offenders from playing the wildly popular Pokemon Go game on cellphones.
“These new restrictions appear to have no meaningful public safety benefit and are so vague as to possibly sweep in wholly innocuous behavior,” said Erin Beth Harrist, senior staff attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union in a statement Monday. “When the government imposes parole and probation restrictions on anyone, those restrictions need to be reasonably related to public safety.”
No legal action, however, is planned.
On Aug. 1, Cuomo added Pokemon Go to the banned and restricted activities for registered sex offenders on state-monitored parole. He also urged county probation departments to do the same.
“Protecting New York’s children is priority number one and, as technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don’t become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims,” Cuomo said then.
Cuomo had no immediate comment Monday.
The New York Times first reported the NYCLU position.
Last year, Texas enacted a law that allows the government to monitor the internet access of sex offenders and require offenders to submit to regular inspections of their electronic devices, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Tennessee requires offenders to provide a complete listing of email address, social media accounts, instant message accounts and other internet devices, according to NCSL.
In North Carolina, a convicted sex offender is suing to overturn a state law that bars convicted sex offenders from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other major networking social media even after they serve their sentences.
In New York, Sens. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) and Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and other lawmakers have pushed to restrict sex offenders from playing the game through cellphone apps and to push the gaming company to not allow the Pokemon characters to appear on cellphone screens near the homes of registered sex offenders.
“Other states have already seen incidents that illustrate exactly how augmented reality games, particularly Pokemon Go, can be used by predators to target children” Klein said Monday. “How many times must this happen before we take action to protect our kids? . . . New York State already prohibits violent sex offenders on parole or probation from using social media to target children, and augmented reality games are a developing new form of social media. We must make protection of our children paramount as we broach new technological advancements.”
Sex offenders face long prison terms, close supervision for years after they serve their time, and are required to register their home addresses annually. Many are listed on public websites, pamphlets and letters to residents from schools.