The hammer has been dropped! Hopefully you aren’t reading this because you’re among the first wave of Pokémon GO trainers who have been banned from the game. So, what is the story with banning anyway? Here’s what you need to know:
What Gets an Account Banned?
According to Niantic, they’re banning accounts that interfere with gameplay for regular users. Specifically, in cases where an account is deemed to be jeopardizing the integrity of Niantic’s Pokémon GO servers. Stated reasons for account banning are:
- Bots – Accounts that are being leveraged by Bots to perform various actions
- Data Scrapers – Accounts that are being used for the purpose of scraping data
If a player is found to be associated with either of the above activities, they should expect to be banned.
What’s the big deal with Bots and Scrapers? Privacy.
To some this may feel like big brother coming down and putting a stop to some utilities, websites and apps that enhance the game, but there is more to it than that.
When a user authorizes or engages with a website, app or utility that accesses one’s account, there is a larger concern about user privacy. Niantic takes this seriously. You may be thinking, “What could possibly go wrong?” Well, plenty of things that might not come to mind are possible.
Niantic clarifies why some of these applications can be concerning:
…some add-on map apps do more than just show you nearby Pokémon. Each end-user app can be used as a collection tool by the app creator, invisibly collecting and forwarding data to the app creator with or without the knowledge of the end user. These apps can have an effect similar to DDoS attacks on our servers.
What is a DDoS attack?
We weren’t 100% sure either, so we consulted with the handy Webopedia. DDoS is an acronym for Distributed Denial of Service. Here’s how a Distributed Denial of Service attack works and what it can do:
… in a DDoS attack, the incoming traffic flooding the victim originates from many different sources – potentially hundreds of thousands or more. This effectively makes it impossible to stop the attack simply by blocking a single IP address; plus, it is very difficult to distinguish legitimate user traffic from attack traffic when spread across so many points of origin.
Essentially, Niantic is saying that they have experienced, or fear that they could experience, a flood of Internet traffic from players who have unwittingly downloaded a virus that coordinates an attack on their servers. And, when that happens, it is incredibly difficult to stop because the attack is coming from many different locations.x
My account was banned. What now?
Well, it depends. Niantic is saying that some accounts that have banned may deserve to have their account restored. Essentially, the folks at Niantic understand that a player may have been using an application or website that they (Niantic) deem to be performing unauthorized access of account data.
In circumstances where the player seems to have been innocent in their actions Niantic is unbanning accounts. They do state, however, that they deem this to be a very small number of accounts compared to the number that have been banned.
Further, there isn’t just one type of ban according to Heavy.com. There is a soft, or temporary ban, and a permanent ban.
How do I get my account ban lifted?
Niantic has a page just for that purpose. Visit it to submit an account ban appeal.
What map (and other Applications) are okay to use?
From what Niantic has communicated, it’s hard to know if any applications, map or otherwise, are okay in their book. Here’s what they had to say:
Add-on maps which scrape data from our servers still violate our Terms of Service and use of them may still result in an account ban going forward.
Accounts whose sole purpose was to scrape data are not being unbanned. Accounts which used apps or websites to remotely capture Pokémon, battle or deploy on Gyms, or harvest resources from PokéStops are also not being unbanned.
There is no whitelist to let players know if an app is safe or not. For now it seems like the standard is that all players should be careful what applications, especially mapping applications, you use to enhance your gameplay. If in doubt, and you value your account, discontinuing use of map and other applications is currently the best advice.