You’ve probably played the new augmented reality-based Pokémon Go game or worse of, heard of it from your friends or even the media.
The game takes advantage of smartphone GPS, camera, as well as position sensors to give out instructions to the game on where it places the little creatures known as Pokémon. This creates the illusion that these creatures are somewhere in your living room, kitchen, bathroom, playground, and roadside or even in a shopping mall. What players need to do is grab these creatures in the most natural way, which needs walking around when glued to your phone’s screen. It is even possible for businesses to buy Pokémon lures and use them as advertise their businesses by drawing imaginary monsters and players to their physical location. In short, Pokemon Go is a digital game that requires the real world to play.
The popularity of the game tells it all, with more than 6% of all Android devices in the U.S. already installed with the game. However, there is one real problem with Pokemon Go. In order to deliver the best gaming experience, the app requires volumes of data. The app collects lots of personal information from players, something that has begun raising concerns among players as to what exactly Niantic collects and what it uses it for.
For starters, the game needs full access to your Google account before you can begin playing. With full access, it means that the app can access and actually modify all of your personal data on the account. While it does not have access to things like payment information or even your account password, the fact that it can see and read your emails and actually tell what you have been searching and other things should get you really worried about Pokémon Go.
Niantic has recently made some changes to this setting, claiming that it has changed the app’s permissions request in the new update.
Still, this doesn’t eliminate the insecurity the game has with respect to user data. For instance, the game can access the location of your phone, your IP address as well as the recently visited web page on the same phone. All these are connected to your Google account information, which also contains your real name. It is possible and easy for companies to misuse this information – it has happened before and Niantic is no exception.
At the time of this writing, encounters such as robberies have already been reported by Pokémon Go players. This is just one way the game can be exploited without even applying any hacking tricks.