Pokemon Go Privacy Concerns
Every now and again, a craze comes along that captures the world by storm. In the past it may have been a children’s TV series, or even a video game. However, technology has come on in leaps and bounds in a reasonably short space of time, and companies are looking to embrace the digital age where possible.
Augmented reality has been around for a while, but until recently it was something that was more or less passive when compared to other popular apps. However, Niantic, an American software company, saw potential in augmented reality, especially when partnered with a brand that offered a real marketing punch, and thus ‘Pokemon Go’ was born.
Much of the appeal of ‘Pokemon Go’ lies in its ability to track our data and movements while we track down these mythical creatures in a number of different hotspots, but just what happens to the data once it reaches Niantic’s servers?
The Accessing of Contacts
One of the main eyebrow raisers in the world of ‘Pokemon Go’ is the granting of access to your contacts. No big deal you may say, as a number of apps also do this. However, it should be noted that as of yet, ‘Pokemon Go’ does not offer a multiplayer experience, and therefore has no requirement to browse your contacts.
Now it is unlikely there is anything sinister occurring, especially with a brand like Pokemon, but it does ponder the question as to why in some instances, Android users find that their entire account can be monitored.
The likelihood is that Niantic is aiming to install updates moving forward, and gaining access beforehand makes life easier its end. However, in a world where data is some valuable and fragile, it comes as no surprise that there are those who aren’t too keen to just hand over a slew of personal information at the request of an unfamiliar app.
iPhone Users Have Also Vented Concern
As well as Android users showing concern over what aspects of their data is shared, those with the Apple flagship phone also voiced concern when accessing ‘Pokemon Go’ via their Google account. Initially, Niantic had asked iPhone users for full access to their Google account when signing up via an iPhone, although a more recent update shows that it now only asks for permission to gain access to basic user information.
So Can ‘Pokemon Go’ Be Used Safely?
As well as the initial privacy concerns, there are worries that the app itself could lead children astray, and even put them in harm’s way.
To give you a clearer overview of how data obtained by Niantic, you could refer to its Term of Service, which reads as follows:
"The App is a location based game. We collect and store information about your (or your authorised child’s) location when you (or your authorised child) use our App and take game actions that use the location services made available for you (or your authorised child’s) device’s mobile operating system."
While the app may need to collect data for gameplay to flourish, it is also likely that the person is transformed into a statistic and sold as such for additional pocket money for Niantic, something that could rustle a few feathers given that there is already a large funnel for income given the in-app purchases.
There is also the fact that some data could be ‘shared with third party service providers,’ with no explanation as to who these third parties actually are. Again, it’s unlikely to be anything sinister, but doesn’t the person sharing their data deserve to know about such details.
When it comes to the online world, many would say that the only real way to stay safe is to stay off the grid altogether. However, app permission can be amended by Android users, without affecting the app (unless you disable GPS and the camera.} Similarly, those who downloaded the iPhone app on the day of release should ensure the update is installed so the permissions are amended accordingly.
Evidently, the game is a hit among the younger generation, so if they’re keen to find the latest Pokemon, it may be worth checking over your child’s phone to ensure companies aren’t able pry more than they need to.
Those concerned as to where the app may take children should lay down some ground rules in the first instance, and even go with them while Pokemon hunting to ensure their safety.