Pokemon Go 'invasion of privacy' spurs class-action lawsuit in Alberta

A woman in central Alberta is the main plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday against the company behind the popular mobile game Pokemon Go.

Suit alleges Torrington, Alta., couple 'inundated by players' of popular mobile video game

Barbie Schaeffer says since her property in a small Alberta hamlet was added to Pokémon Go as a gym, dozens of people regularly come on to her property at all hours. (Colin Hall/CBC)

A woman in central Alberta is the main plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed by a Calgary law firm Wednesday against the company behind the popular video game Pokemon Go.

The statement of claim against California-based Niantic Inc. alleges that Barbra-Lyn Schaeffer and her husband "have been inundated by players at their home in the otherwise sleepy hamlet of Torrington, Alta., since the game was introduced."

Schaeffer tells CBC News she became aware of the game last month while visiting her daughter in Red Deer.

"She showed me this new game she had downloaded on her phone. She showed me how it worked.

She handed me the phone and I got a Pokémon. I got the gist of it," she said.

A Calgary lawyer says the plaintiff list for a class-action lawsuit against the company behind Pokemon Go is growing. (CBC)

Then a customer at the local store told her husband their property was a Pokémon Go gym.

"I said to my husband, 'We are a what? We are a gym?' Why would we be a gym? A gym should be a public place. It shouldn't be a home," Schaeffer said.

That's when it started, she explained.

"People looking through the windows, looking through the doors, trying to come up over the fence. On Saturday, someone threw a drone into our yard to play the game."

Schaeffer says strangers on her property have brought complaints from neighbours when her dogs bark.

"I can look at a 1 a.m. and I will see people outside playing and the dogs are losing it. Last week bylaw came to the door and they said, 'You have got complaints, your dogs are barking.' She is like, 'This is all so new, we don't even know what to tell you,'" she said.

Schaeffer said all she wants is to be removed from the game.

"Get us off this map, get us off this game."

D'Arcy & Deacon LLP filed the suit "on behalf of property owners in Canada who have been subject to an invasion of privacy" resulting from the game. 

Pokemon Go is played on a mobile app for iOS and Android phones. It features creatures that players "catch" in the wild and train to battle at gyms that are located at landmarks.

'Hordes of trespassing players'

The couple's property has been designated a Pokemon Gym, and Niantic has so far ignored Schaeffer​'s request to remove it from the game, lawyer Clint Docken said.

"Pokestops and Pokemon Gyms were established by Niantic with the callous disregard of property owners, and without prior consultation with property owners. As a result, the Class generally, and the Plaintiff specifically, have been inundated with hordes of trespassing players intruding and invading their privacy," the statement of claim says.

"The Plaintiff's property, for example, has been invaded by over 100 intruders since July 22, 2016 in an otherwise sleepy hamlet of fewer than 200 residents."

The suit alleges Niantic is creating a nuisance, encouraging trespassing and reaping an unjust enrichment, Docken said. "We suspect there's a significant number of class members experiencing similar problems," he told CBC News. 

A class-action lawsuit has to be certified by a judge before it can proceed.

Every summer, thousands of tourists stop in Torrington, Alta., which is an hour-and-a-half northeast of Calgary, to check out the Gopher Hole Museum.

It features stuffed gophers arranged in 47 anthropomorphic poses, from a hairdresser to a preacher to an RCMP officer.