Pokèmon Go: You Catch Pokèmon, They Catch Your Data

It has been a mere 5 days since Pokèmon Go has hit the market and become an international augmented reality sensation. Millions and millions flooded the app when it launched, so much so the servers couldn’t handle the amount of registries and had to limit the amount of users that can play. How many users can register? Enough to make Nintendo worth 9 billion more than it was last weekend.

If you haven’t been playing the game, you have probably seen a lot of stories about it on your news feed. It is credited as the most effective exercise app on the market, boosting user’s mental health and giving 90’s kids like me a euphoric experience of a world we forgot about (unless you never really grew out of the video game phase, for whom I’m sure were probably a little too excited for the app’s release).

The game creates a virtual map of your actual surroundings via GPS, which is cool, but as you indulge in the levels and maneuver your way through the playing field, let’s go two buttons deep on what the company behind Pokèmon Go is tracking while you track Pokèmon:

  1. Your Email Address (sure, ok)
  2. Your IP Address (ummmm, ok)
  3. The web page you were using before logging into Pokèmon (breaks a sweat)
  4. Your location and movement patterns (it’s not creepy if you don’t think about it)
  5. Your entire Google account (WHAT)

 

That’s right, Niantic is catching that information and definitely keeping it all. They have access to your Google login (used to activate the game) and could potentially go through all of your emails and google drive accounts. Because that’s what they said could happen in the privacy terms that you read, right?

Before you break a sweat, just relax, location-based apps like Facebook and Tinder have been tracking you like this for years and you’re still alive. But with Pokèmon’s block-block analysis it creates a breadth of data which Niantic claims it will share with other parties, including the Pokémon Company that co-developed the game, “third-party service providers,” and “third parties” to conduct “research and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes.” It also, per the policy, may share any information it collects with law enforcement in response to a legal claim, to protect its own interests, or stop “illegal, unethical, or legally actionable activity.”

So the company knows a lot about you and has access to you Google account, and above all, you’re chugging down A LOT of data giving this company data. I can’t wait until the end of the month when the don’t-use-anymore-data texts from Mom will be THROUGH THE ROOF. But the game is fun so it’s worth it, and like I said, it’s only creepy if you think about it. And right now you’re  hunched over running around your town chasing fictional characters through a virtual world on your mobile device so I’m not sure “thinking things through” is very high on your to-do list anyways. So keep playing and give a quick prayer to Jesus that Niantic doesn’t get hacked.