Niantic Labs, the developer behind the wildly popular AR game Pokemon Go, had earlier decided to crack down hard on cheaters and award them with lifetime bans. But, as announced today, the developer is now reversing some permanent account bans that were issued accidentally over the past few weeks.
Niantic CEO John Hanke, in an official blogpost, says that the team had began issuing lifetime bans to Go users who were violating its terms of service by using third-party map addons. These add-on services, like PokeVision or PokeMesh could be used to easily find out the exact location and spawn timing of a Pokemon.
These third-party services, however, were in violation of the company’s policy terms and requests from them were flooding the Niantic servers causing downtime. Thus, the company cut-off access to these services, followed by aggressive policing(and banning) of abusive players who were still using intrusive service to modify gameplay.
Niantic also goes on to add(and emphasize) that Pokemon Go users might not have realized this, but these third-party services were doing more than just showing you nearby Pokemon. It believes that some lesser-known mapping tools were being 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.
The Niantic team also believes that some of these tools collected user data and pushed it to Niantic servers, causing a distributed denial of service(or DDOS) attack. Thus, it had to take incriminating steps and ban these services to protect the integrity of its game and maintain the health of its servers.
However, since there was no defined method for recognizing cheaters, the developer had given the benefit of doubt to users. It also says that users were using mapping service because the game had a broken ‘nearby’ feature, which had ultimately been removed in a previous update.
So, Niantic feels that it hasn’t done justice on its part and goes on to add,
We have had to ban some accounts associated with using these add-on map tools, leading to confusion by some users about why they were banned. This is a small subset of the accounts banned. As a result of some changes made to our infrastructure, we are now able to unban this set of accounts.
But, those account users who’ve used apps or websites to remotely capture Pokémon, battle or deploy on Gyms, or harvest resources from PokéStops will not be unbanned, says Hanke. He also adds that the usage of an add-on mapping service that scrapes data from the game servers, will still result in a permanent account ban going forward.
So, some of those users who’ve filled the form for reversal of their ban, will get back control to their accounts very soon. They will soon be able to go back out and try to catch’em all.