Pokemon Go may be fun, but has big problems
Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm, pushing game technology into a whole new spectrum, and invading the masses with the lure of Pokemon-mania. Facebook and Twitter Feeds abound with comments about what exactly is Pokemon Go, who is playing, and the ramifications of users who have been robbed, stabbed, or injured while playing.
In the first week that Pokemon Go was unleashed on the masses, Niantic, the company that created Pokemon GO (Niantic started as a Google-owned company but now is standalone) revealed that they negligently had full access to IOS users Gmail accounts and personal data.
Niantic reported that this security vulnerability was unintentional and they have since updated the app to prevent this kind of access in the future. Now the new update only has access to basic user information, such as username and email address.
Privacy issues abound
Pokemon Go is also raising issues of privacy, not only with the authentic version of Pokemon Go but also with third-party apps that have been created maliciously for the purpose of stealing your data.
Pokemon Go was first released in New Zealand and Australia on July 4th and then released in the US on July 6th. Users in other countries have been clamoring to get in on the action and have been downloading the app through unofficial channels.
Third parties are sideloading
Tutorials have been sprouting up galore, on how Pokemon Go can be downloaded by “sideloading.” Sideloading is where a user downloads an app through third party channels other than an official app store. Since these channels are not regulated anyone can upload a fake version of an app and load it with malware.
Noah Swartz, of the electronic frontier foundation, warns if an app is requesting access to information that raises alarms then you should always check by looking at the permissions that the official app asks for. However, the best way to prevent malware is to only download the app from an approved source.
Sen. Franken has questions
Senator Al Franken, of Minnesota, is at the forefront of protecting the privacy of users who use virtual and augmented reality games and is raising some important questions.
First, the senator is concerned with how augmented reality games like Pokemon Go use the data that is provided once the game is installed. Since Pokemon Go collects information from electronic beacons and the data from your phone. How is that information used? Also, since the game is used by children, how does Niantic use that data?
Enthusiasm led to sacrificing personal info
The important question is why did users so easily give up their personal information in the first place? These concerns are not isolated events and will not stop with Pokemon Go.
We as an informed society have to be prepared to protect our privacy and think about the consequences of giving out our information so freely.