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pokemon go

You must have heard all the hub-bub about the new Augmented Reality version of Pokémon that was released last week: Pokémon Go.   Niantic owns Pokémon Go.  Niantic was a Google owned company until they struck out on their own with partner Nintendo.  So what makes Pokémon Go different? It is a location based game, where you have to go to a REAL physical location to hunt for and find Pokémon characters.   As explained in this Jalopnik blog,

“For those unfamiliar with the game, it’s a mobile app that puts players into a world of Pokémon. Players can catch the creatures, help them evolve and take them to battle, all while leveling up themselves. The game launched over the week, and despite quite a few problems, it seems like everyone is playing. “

So what are some of the reported problems with Pokémon Go?

  1. Some are luring people to locations to rob, mug them.
  2. S L O W  Driving while playing. People of all ages are going nuts for this game walking or driving around looking for Pokémon. You aren’t supposed to drive and play; the game reads your geo-location and can tell the speed you are moving. If it senses you are driving, you will be kicked out of the game *unless* you drive at very slow speeds, so the game won’t detect that you are driving.  Driving and stopping while capturing the elusive Pokémon could be as dangerous or more dangerous than texting and driving. Several accidents and near accidents have been reported in less than a week of the game’s release.
“The Washington State Department of Transportation even sent out a tweet warning drivers not to catch Pokémon while driving. But people do anyway”
3. Privacy and security issues. You must accept the terms of Pokémon Go, which gives the company  FULL access to your Google account.  What does this mean?  As Adam Reeve explains,

“Pokemon Go has full access to your Google account

Here are a couple of excerpts from the Google help page about what this means:

When you grant full account access, the application can see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account

This “Full account access” privilege should only be granted to applications you fully trust, and which are installed on your personal computer, phone, or tablet.

Let me be clear – Pokemon Go and Niantic can now:

  • Read all your email
  • Send email as you
  • Access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them)
  • Look at your search history and your Maps navigation history
  • Access any private photos you may store in Google Photos
  • And a whole lot more”

*Niantic said it didn’t mean to spy on users’ Google accounts and is now working with Google on “fixing” this problem.

“According to the company, Google says that the app has not accessed any user data beyond “basic profile information,” and that Google will soon “reduce Pokémon Go’s permission” to only the limited info that it needs to access.

“We recently discovered that the Pokémon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account,” the company said in a statement provided to Recode. “Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access.”

But the biggest problem with Pokémon Go

…is how readily Americans were willing to give up their privacy for this game (and any other “free” app).  Is it because no one really thinks about what it means to click “Accept”  and how that information can be used and shared?  Is it as MEW reported last week, if a person were to ask you on the street for you text messages, and phone numbers, addresses of you and your friends, you would say no way, but when a simple click, does the same thing, we don’t think about it? Are we conditioned to accept loss of privacy from a phone or computer because we don’t actually SEE the risk of giving away your personal information to an “invisible” entity? As Techradar says, There’s a ‘perfect storm’ at the heart of big data.

“[T]he buyer gets a shiny device and a shiny free app, but loses control over some very intimate personal data. That bargain is not spelled out clearly enough, according to some. The more ‘seamless’ the service, the less awareness the user has of what is going on … it perpetuates a situation in which the user makes privacy decisions based on an unrepresentative subset of relevant information,” says Wilton. “The imbalance of power between the user and the device/service provider persists, and there is no real notion of informed, explicit consent.”

Are games like Pokémon Go and augmented reality, virtual reality headed for classrooms? YES.

There is a huge push for gamification, augmented reality in our schools… keeping kids engaged, connected on screens longer so more data can be collected. Are we really comfortable with apps collecting personal and predictive data on our children? Don’t you think parents and teachers would want to protect their children from this unseen and unaccountable data collection?  It is not the technology that is the problem, it is the hidden data collection and unknown algorithms and how that data is used to profile a person.

A potential fix?

People, not corporations, should own their personal data and decide who sees it.  It’s time for people to own their own data.





Cheri Kiesecker