The reviews are mixed about the new app-based game that’s quite literally taking over the internet. Pokemon Go, the location-based game that uses its players’ smartphones to pop up with a seemingly endless variety of cartoon Pokemon creatures, has fairly well divided humanity into two camps: the ones who don’t see the appeal, and those who’ve got to catch ’em all.
For the naysayers, this game is a mindless waste of time that stands to put people in harm’s way. There has already been a hashtag developed on social media–#dontpokemongoanddrive–to warn people not to play the game while literally driving their cars. This hashtag may have been borne out of the hoax news story about a massive auto accident due to a driver’s game playing at seventy miles an hour, but it still stands as a stark warning not to drive while distracted, as some players have admitted to online.
There have also been the admonishments from law enforcement agencies, warning the public about trespassing on private property in order to capture one more virtual character. Reports to police of “suspicious” behavior and individuals coming onto private property after dark have already wasted police manpower and led to threatening behaviors (considering US citizens are allowed to shoot intruders in order to defend themselves).
But there’s a whole other realm of danger that game players may not be aware of, and that’s the massive database of private information that was created within hours of the game going viral. Those pesky terms of service have resulted in a flood of personal data being sent out into cyberspace, while game players blithely hand over permissions to access their smartphones’ cameras, their location settings, and according to some reports, even their Google accounts once users opt to log into the game through their accounts.
And that begs the question: where did all this data go? Who can access it? Given the numbers of young people playing the game, are their identities in danger? Some experts have concerns about the fact that the game is free and as of yet does not offer in-app purchases, which creates the incentive to monetize strictly off the sheer amount of data the developers can collect.
While the ramifications are yet to be seen of handing over nearly-complete access to your accounts and your smartphone, here’s a word of warning: please pay attention to that no driving rule.