Holocaust Museum to Pokemon Go fans: Please don't play here

Last Updated Jul 13, 2016 10:16 AM EDT

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. is telling visitors it's a place to reflect on history -- not to catch Pokemon. Much to museum officials' dismay, the somber landmark has been disrupted in recent days by Pokemon Go players drawn to the location by the augmented reality mobile game. The museum is one of many public places across the country designated as "Pokestops" -- locations where users can collect free virtual items in their Pokemon quest.

"Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism," Andrew Hollinger, the museum's communications director, told The Washington Post. "We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game."

One image appearing to have been taken at the museum certainly caused a stir online. It showed a Pokemon character called "Koffing" -- who shoots out poisonous gas -- hanging around a sign for the Helena Rubinstein Auditorium, where an exhibit features Holocaust survivors' testimonials about the Nazi gas chambers, the Post reports.

Obviously inflammatory, the image was deleted from photo-sharing website imgur, and it's unclear if it was a doctored picture.

The Holocaust Museum is not the only inappropriate place that has been attracting fans of the Nintendo mobile game. Arlington National Cemetery and the memorial site at Auschwitz have also felt the need to warn gamers to keep a respectful distance.

The Pokemon Go craze has sent legions of players hiking around neighborhoods collecting "pocket monsters" on their smartphones. Some have wandered onto private property, like one man's home in Massachusetts mistakenly designated as a Pokemon "gym." Others have been lured into dangerous situations by would-be criminals.

While it marks a turning point in the popularity of new augmented reality technology, the game is colliding in some unanticipated ways with everyday life, prompting a number of questions and challenges.

Can digital lures lead to real cash?

Some shops are exploring ways to use Pokemon Go's digital "lures" to drum up business.

An Atlanta cafe owned by digital ad agency Huge turned out to be roughly 30 feet away from two prominent "Pokestops." So it spent about $40 in real money to add digital "lures" to the stops, refreshing them every 30 minutes. The lures increase the chance that rare Pokemon with names like "Starmie" and "Poliwag" turn up nearby - drawing players in turn.

"Our corner was essentially lit up all day long," says Huge executive creative director Derek Fridman.

In San Francisco, enthusiastic players working for Kawika's Ocean Beach Deli likewise set out lures and branded the store as a "charging station" for drained phones. (The game is notoriously hard on batteries.)

Given that the shop is bracketed by Pokestops on one side and a battle arena on the other, players "have no choice but to walk past us," says owner David Nottage III. "So we put up some signs." The deli plans additional Pokemon-related activities in the future.

Who's to blame when playing really gets out of hand?

In St. Louis, police say robbers perched near attractive digital spots to rob players engrossed in the game. Police in Indiana and Baltimore say they are investigating similar incidents.

Social media is filling up with accounts of people who injured themselves or saw someone get hurt while walking around focused on the game rather than their surroundings.

A man who lives in a former church says his home -- also a Pokestop -- has become a digital magnet for Pokemon Go players, who sometimes block his driveway and passing traffic as they pull over to stare at their phones.

Phoenix police are telling people not to trespass while playing the game. New York's subway is warning people not to jump onto the tracks to chase digital "Rattatas." At the Associated Press bureau in Los Angeles, an outdated reference to a statue no longer on the property beckons Pokemon players in from the street.

Todd Richmond, a director at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, says a big debate is brewing over who controls digital assets associated with real world property.

"This is the problem with technology adoption - we don't have time to slowly dip our toe in the water," he says. "Tenants have had no say, no input, and now they're part of it."

How big can augmented reality get?

Stock in Nintendo, which part owns Pokemon Go, jumped 25 percent on Monday, adding about $5 billion to its market value as investors assessed the breakout game.

But Jefferies analyst Atul Goyal says that's just the tip of the iceberg and now targets a share price of 30,000 yen, nearly 50 percent higher still. Nintendo is transitioning from console games to smartphone games, and "it has just started that journey," Goyal says.

The game's success on smartphones also could spur faster development from hardware makers - Microsoft with its HoloLens, the secretive startup Magic Leap, or Google, which could still revive its failed Glass headgear, says Timothy Carone, a professor at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

"The reaction (to Pokemon Go) is a quick of vote of 'Yeah, they got this right,'" Carone says. "My guess is that a lot of developers have gone back to figure out how to take this approach."

Does this affect my privacy?

Adam Reeve, principal architect of security firm Red Owl, however, found that Pokemon Go required overly broad permission for those using a Google account as a sign-in. Even setting aside the location data collected by the app, he said, the app is a "huge security risk."

He noted the app, in theory, could allow Pokemon Go to read one's Gmail, send email as you and access your Google search history.

On Monday, Niantic said in a blog post that it never intended to request such sweeping data access, hasn't collected information beyond the user's ID and email address, and is working with Google to pare back the authorization. It released an updated version of the iOS app to the App Store on Tuesday to correct the issue.