Protector Of Game Boys
A Message To Our Customers:
Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a stand against the FBI’s demand to get around the security features of the encrypted iPhone of one of the terrorists involved in the San Bernadino attack. He posted his message to the Apple website. Soon after Google and WhatsApp announced they were standing by Apple. And, although nobody asked us, we at Nintendo wanted to officially announce that we are also on the side of user rights and privacy by saying no government requests for backdoor access to the devices of citizens. Sorry, FBI, you can’t hack our Game Boys. No, you haven’t asked to, but just so you know, in case you do ask later on, the answer is no.
The Need For Encryption
Our handheld mobile devices—led by Nintendo’s Game Boy, first released in 1989—are an essential part of our lives today. Whether playing “Tetris” on your morning commute or playing “Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge” on a romantic date, your Game Boy is no doubt as much a part of your daily routine as a toothbrush or a hairbrush. Your high scores, your gaming history, which levels you’ve beaten, and more–this is all your private data. At Nintendo, we believe that data should remain private. True, nobody asked Nintendo what we believed on this issue, but as one of the world’s leading creators of digital devices small enough to fit in your pocket and play games on all day long, just like Apple, we felt our opinion was needed on the issue, too.
The Threat to Data Security
Some would argue that building a backdoor data access to a Game Boy on a case by case basis is a simple, clean-cut solution. What if someone used their Pokemon game as a notekeeping scheme for some sort of elaborate international black market trafficking operation, naming the Pokemon they catch in correspondence with certain merchandize? But allowing Game Boy access in that case would allow Game Boy access in all cases. For example, what if instead of a criminal investigation, there was just some jealous FBI agent who wanted to know how many Pokemons you’d captured because he wanted to know if he’d caught as many as you while playing Pokemon: Red and he then filed a warrant to Nintendo demanding backdoor access to your Game Boy Color. Suddenly, as you can see, just as the case is not so simple for smartphone access, it is also not so simple for Game Boys.
Still others would argue that Game Boys are “not encrypted” nor even password protected, and that if someone apprehended your Game Boy to access the game data all they would have to do is “turn it on.” We will respond here by quoting Tim Cook:
— Tim Cook on Apple's stance on refusing to decrypt the iPhone; perhaps also relevant to Game Boys?
This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.
A Dangerous Precedent
With the Apple case, the FBI wants to use the All Writs Act of 1789 to unlock the suspect’s iPhone. This is a slippery slope. If the government is granted access to an iPhone’s data without your permission today, they could be granted access to borrow your Game Boy without your permission tomorrow.
We say “thank you” to Tim Cook and Apple for the stance being taken on this important issue of protecting the privacy of the iPhone, and we say “you’re welcome” in advance at expectation of the thanks we will receive for taking this same stance on the privacy of the Game Boy.