Do you know what Pokémon GO is?
Even if you are not into mobile or video games, you still must have heard or seen people play it. It is not hard to spot a Pokémon trainer: just look for someone who is wandering around with their eyes on their phone all the time. That would be one of your Pokémon GO masters.
Adults and children alike have been engrossed into this augmented-reality game since it came out last week, and it has broken several app download records already. Reports say that the number of downloads have exceed those of Tinder and Twitter. And that is only in the United States alone! Add all the other international editions to this number and you will probably see why the game’s creator Niantic has hit the jackpot.
However, since Pokémon GO is a location game, not all regions support it, and there are still many countries where the app is unavailable. Do you think it stops users from getting the game? Obviously not. Users in the countries that still do not support the app come with other ways to download it, but that also means the security issues associated with the game are even bigger when you operate the unofficial version.
Are security flaws associated with Pokémon GO really that big? Well, to be honest, not so much. There is more hysteria than anything, surrounding this game and its security features. Admittedly, the biggest blooper the creators have committed so far was the glitch in the game’s version for iOS. When you download the game, you need to give the app various permissions, and the iPhone users (at first) were asked to give the game permission to access their full Google accounts. Normally, the game just asks for your name and your email address, but when you give (any app for that matter) access to your full account, then it can also access your documents, calendar, pictures, and all the other data you have saved on your Google account. That would raise a few red flags as far as your data security is concerned, but, according to the latest reports, Niantic has also fixed this issue.
With that taken care of, we are left only with the most basic security aspects, most of the interactive mobile games have. It is easy to understand why hackers and security experts alike are advocating against installing this game. Yet, at the same time, we should probably remember that hackers prefer complete anonymity. Is it possible to remain anonymous on the Internet gaming platforms, though? That is highly unlikely. Even if you think that you do not give away your information, still, a lot of websites and applications have other means to collect at least statistical data about your online activities.
In that aspect, Pokémon GO is not something severely intrusive. Even if you take a look at the list of permissions you need to grant it, there is nothing out of the ordinary. The app definitely needs the camera and the location access because you cannot play the game without the GPS on. Also, you may turn off your camera during the game, as some avid players even suggest that catching Pokémon without the camera on is a lot more convenient.
The thing that baffles us a little bit is the request to access your contacts. Pokémon GO is not a multi-player game (yet), and perhaps they came up with this permission have further game development in mind. Nevertheless, if you do not feel like giving the app permission to peruse your address book, you can simply deny this permission. The game quality does not suffer in the very least.
With all the access requests this game has, some people suggest that it might pose potential surveillance threats. However, albeit Pokémon GO does collect some info, the image leak is highly unlikely. To put it simply, practically all games can be hacked and exploited, as long as the hacker knows what to do. This one might be slightly riskier because it is very popular and the pool of potential victims is just bigger. But, at the same time, it does not mean that it will be hacked for sure. These are just risks that each of us encounters every single day. Pokémon GO can be hacked just like your online banking account, your account on eBay or your Google account.
You can sure decide to stay away from this app if particular service accesses bother you. Nevertheless, then we would recommend going through all of the apps you have installed on your mobile device to see what other permissions you have granted.
Another issue this game might face in the future is the potential product placement. Business experts suggest that if your Pokémon hunting data is shared with third parties (a big corporation that owes a lot of shopping malls, for example), then Niantic could be hired to place Pokémon at a specific location, to lure more customers. Is that annoying? Yes, somewhat. Illegal? Not in the slightest. Quite a few online shopping malls track your search queries to figure out what kind of ads it should display when you access their sites, and that is absolutely normal. In fact, you even agreed to it when you signed up on a particular site, only, perhaps, you were not aware of that.
The more realistic concerns about Pokémon GO that really bother us are the possibilities to get run by a car or fall off a cliff if you get too focused on catching ‘em all. There is a reason you get the message on the loading screen that says: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” Thus, being inattentive may bring you more damage than the app’s security settings.
Pokémon GO Privacy Points screenshot
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What’s more, we would like to point out that users should stay away from unofficial Pokémon apps and the fake games that are now available on Google Play. There are many copycats out there that want a part of the Pokémon’s tasty pie, so before you install this game, make sure you get the official one by Niantic. For any other questions or concerns, you can always leave us a comment. Our team is super excited about Pokémon GO and we sure can share our insights with you.
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