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A Complete Guide to Privacy for Pokémon Go Players

A Complete Guide to Privacy for Pokémon Go Players

15 August 2016

If you are anything like some of our TIMG team members, you have caught the Pokémon Go fever! It’s a game that we can excitedly play each day that cleverly combines our fascination with augmented reality, love for technology and nostalgia for our 90s Pokémon obsession.

An unexpected positive element to the game is that more of us are going outside, being taken to places within our communities that we might not have gone to before, been exposed to or even knew existed. Who would have thought that chasing around cartoons would expand our horizons so?

Fun though it is, since Pokémon Go’s release in June we have listened to countless stories in the news of both safety and privacy concerns.

Learning about the physical safety concerns around Pokémon Go could almost be considered a new form of entertainment – a man walking through a pond, men walking off a cliff, climbing over neighbours’ fences, a guy getting stabbed by a stranger who then continued to play… and sadly the list goes on! We join the many police officers and road safety signs in urging players to exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings.

Learning about the concerns around privacy is less entertaining than it is alarming. Part of our role at TIMG is to help protect people like you from becoming victims from privacy breaches. Here are the facts.

The Situation

It has been estimated that Pokémon Go now has more than 75 million downloads, with usage that equates to double the daily use of Facebook, and more than any other social media app.

When the app was initially released by the developer, Niantic, the default settings requested permission for a player’s location data, camera, and full access to the player’s Google account. Keep in mind that a Google account includes personal emails, map history, calendar, stored documents and contacts. Like most app developers, they keep all of this data. Niantic assured the public that they only use your basic profile information and location data to run the game. In response to the further public backlash, they have now taken the extra step to adjust their permission request settings for iOS to reflect only the information they need. (By the way: to ensure that this adjustment is in effect for your account, you need to update your app, sign out and sign back in.)

Be aware of the collection of data.

Even if you trust Niantic, remember that anywhere there is a great wealth of stored information, it inevitably becomes a target for hackers. And the hackings have already started. The Twitter account of the Niantic CEO was hacked. Now everyone knows his password was ‘nopass’.

News of Pokémon Go’s privacy situation is a lesson in itself. However, the greater lesson you should take away is to maintain awareness around what information our other smartphone apps are storing about us. In a way, this privacy news is nothing new here. Apps request these sort of permissions all the time without an uproar.

Have You Ever Followed This Path?

Too often we get excited about a new, interesting app and quickly download it. You enter whatever information the app requires in order to set it up and get started. Then, you happily use the app, forgetting about and/or never reading the privacy policy.

We have been there, too.

Simple Precautions You Can Take Now

If you consider the apps you currently have on your smartphone, you might recall setting them up using either your Facebook or Google profile. This is common.

  1. Go to your settings within Facebook to remove access to apps you do not use anymore.
  2. See what apps have access to your own Google account here.
  3. Check your iPhone’s settings by tapping Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
  4. Read the fine print in a privacy policy to understand what information you allow companies to have access to. You should get into the habit of checking before tapping “yes” on your settings.

At TIMG, we take privacy seriously. When we designed our TIMG VOI app, we increased security by enabling controlled access to different types of data, secure online hosting, and data stored offsite to eliminate any risk of a privacy breach.

Your personal information is worth protecting. Anytime you download an app, check the privacy policy. For the apps that you already have, check your privacy settings. And while you are at it, switch up your passwords. We are like you – we just want to live in a world where entertainment and security can coexist.

If you have any questions about how privacy matters extend to your business, please get in touch with us.

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