Despite the fact that it’s not available worldwide, just a few days after the launch, Pokemon GO has outnumbered Twitter for active users. The app lured countless numbers of people into exploring the outside while playing on their smartphones, which has led to numerous stories of unusual encounters, some that are heartwarming, and some that are scary.
Niantic and Pokemon GO
Pokemon GO is not revolutionary. It’s nowhere near being the first MMO (massively multiplayer online game) or the first game with augmented reality, nor is it a novel idea to combine these two elements for mobile gaming. However, the game is creating a huge phenomenon, perhaps even more than World of Warcraft in 2004.
Niantic, who created Pokemon GO, is not a newcomer to this particular market. Started in 2010, Niantic also released Ingress, which was the previous most popular MMO-augmented reality game. In Ingress, real people joined one of two teams and fought to gain control of cities by capturing supply lines, portals, and power links, using a map on their phone screens.
What about privacy?
Concerns about privacy were raised immediately after Pokemon GO was released. The app requires a lot of access to your cell phone, which includes your contacts, Bluetooth, GPS, storage, the camera, and just about everything else.
In the beginning, the app requested complete access to user’s Google accounts, including viewing Google Drive documents, permission to send mail in your name, and the ability to read the history of your mail search. Niantic, however, insists this was a mistake, and that its users’ data has not been looked at or accessed.
You can’t call Pokemon GO an undercover government surveillance conspiracy, but the game will affect even those who don’t play it, should their house become a PokeGym in the game, for example.
So here are 9 tips for your privacy when playing Pokemon GO.
Update the app if you’ve already installed it. Updating Pokemon GO will prevent an attacker from accessing your Google account by fixing several known issues.
Never install any app, including Pokemon GO, from sources you don’t know are safe, just because it’s not yet available in your country. These kinds of downloads frequently have malware integrated that may hold your phone’s data for ransom, spy on you, or make pricey calls.
To play, you’ll need a Pokemon account. Overall, it’s safer to register a separate one from your Google account, so the developers don’t have access to it. You can also choose to create a new Google account for these kinds of things.
Pokemon GO knows where you are at all times. The app tracks and records your location, and who knows if this information may be leaked to your employer, friends, or people who would use it maliciously. In its terms of service, Pokemon GO has also vowed to “cooperate with law enforcement,” so when it comes to the courts, be aware that information can and will be used against you.
You’re providing loads of information about private areas in your life, which includes pictures from the inside of your house. While the app was probably not created for evil purposes, if someone wanted to make a tool for spying, this would do it.
The app accesses a lot of your phone’s information. If you can download Pokemon GO on an anonymous phone, separate from your regular one, you should do it. This will keep your private content, like chats, contacts, and pictures, away from the app’s reach.
Use common sense. Don’t go anywhere unsafe and avoid abandoned buildings, construction areas, or highways, even if there’s a rare Pokemon hiding inside.
Be cautions when sharing screenshots, particularly if they include maps, as they could reveal your actual location and create a dangerous situation for you.
Use the buddy system for your PokeSearches. Looking for Pokemon in a group doesn’t decrease chances to catch rare Pokemon, but can protect you from wandering into dangerous areas or getting lost somewhere.
Games with augmented reality are fun, and Pokemon GO is likely the biggest MMO game in the world as far as the sheer number of players goes. It’s exciting to see where the game will go and what new features may come.