Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks or just got back from a trip to
the moon, you have certainly heard of, and perhaps even played the latest app craze, Pokemon
Go! You might know all about Pokestops and Lures and training your Pokemon. But did you know that all the fun you’re having comes at a price?
Sure, Pokemon Go is a free app, but you’re paying with your privacy and security in more ways than you probably care to realize. In fact the myriad of privacy issues that stem from Go! are astounding.
Niantic, makers of Pokemon Go! is a Google/Alphabet spin off and as such, is no stranger to data collection. And actually this isn’t even Niantic’s first augmented reality game. They created a small phenomenon about four years ago with their game Ingress, which asked players to collect utilities such as Capsules, Powerups and Keys around their city. Not so surprisingly, Ingress was also involved in security and privacy concerns as many people saw it as a thinly veiled ruse to collect local data for Google and Google Maps. Now Niantic is back, with Nintendo owning one third of shares and the fuzzy Pokemon gang, attracting a much wider player base than Ingress ever could have. And when young players are
involved, privacy concerns become even more acute.
Here are just some of the problems with Go! in terms of privacy:
Permission Access– Go! asks its users to grant access to camera, location settings, contacts, storage and just about everything else you can think of.
In fact, it’s first iOS version requested FULL ACCESS to the user’s Google account. This was changed due to a flurry of complaints but it still accesses all the above including the user’s contacts which really shouldn’t matter to the developers at all, considering that for the moment there is no social mode to the game play. And once you have enabled location permissions, you become totally traceable to developers and anyone they decide to divulge that data to.
Data Collection – Just what do they do with that data? They sell it to whomever they choose, of course. This is pretty par for the course when it comes to all things digital but because of the game’s insane popularity at the moment, Pokemon Go! Is ripe to become one big immersive product placement platform. This can be frustrating for adults but is
even worse for the huge amount of kids who are easily influenced by insidious marketing tactics. Another scary point is that collected data is leak-able data – As of recent so many big players have seen their servers and databases hacked – user info and all. So the more they collect on you, the more there is to be stolen and sold on the darkweb.
So what does all this mean for you, regardless of whether or not you’re already on the Pokemon bandwagon?
– Never download apps from unauthorized third party app stores.
– If you have kids who want to get in on the action, talk to them about the dangers and devise guidelines for safe Pokemon-ing.
– To stay safe from suspicious apps that might pose as the real Poekmon Go!, check out our very own ZoneAlarm Mobile Security. Available for iOS or Android, it notifies and blocks apps that collect unnecessary information or that might be out to harm the integrity of your data.
– Use your head – keep out of dangerous places, stay away from shady people and remember that no game is worth dying (or even spraining your ankle) for.
– As arduous as it might be, read through all terms of service with any software you install and know what you are getting yourself into.
So now here comes the million dollar question: Should you play Pokemon Go!? Well, it depends.
Sure, there are some great things about Go! like the fact that people are getting off their couches and enjoying the great outdoors, and meeting real life actual people in the process.
And hey, it’s just a fun game and who would want to miss out on all that action? But seriously, your safety and privacy should come first. If you do opt to play, make sure you understand what
you are allowing Go! access to and keep your eyes and ears open.