How Much of My Info Does Pokémon Go Have Access To?

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How Much of My Info Does Pokémon Go Have Access To?

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It’s the latest phenomenon to sweep players all over the world. Even if you may not be a Pokémon lover, it is easy to get caught up in all of the Pokémon Go game’s hype. The Pokémon Go craze started when the app launched in early July, and needless to say, the mobile game has taken the world by storm, so much so that even Harley Quinn is hooked on it.

However, it seems the wildly popular app has triggered a slew of privacy concerns in relations to the access of users’ information its developer, Niantic, demands upon downloading the game. It even has some elected officials such as U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) writing official letters addressed to Niantic in alarm over the unbelievably long list of access permissions the app requires.

So what are the privacy issues you should be aware of before you start your life as a Pokémon Trainer? And how can you mitigate the risks involved? Below are a couple areas in which could be a matter of concern for you:

 

  • Issue: Access to extensive user information

On Android, Pokémon Go will demand access to various settings on your device, including your camera, USB storage, contacts, network connections and more.

Perhaps more disconcerting was its earlier version released on iPhone whereby any iPhone users who logged in with your Google Account would be granting the app full account access.

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Any app which seeks full account access would be able to “see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account”, which means being able to control the contents of your Gmail which could include reading your mail search history or sending mail in your name, access your Google Drive or Google Docs, as well as view your browsing history. *shudders*

  • Solution: Update your Pokémon Go app

Albeit Niantic has since released a statement claiming that the request for full permissions to players’ Google accounts had been a big error in which they supposedly rectified with the new permissions update.

“Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.”

With the new update, Niantic is said to only request access to basic account information, such as a user’s name and Gmail address, although it remains a mystery how many users out of the app’s impressive usage statistics had happily clicked “Install” without objecting the full access to their accounts.

For players who have used their Google account to log in to Pokémon Go, you are advised to log out of the app, download the update, and then log back in with your Google account.

  • Issue: Your information shared to third parties & the government

While the app claims to only share shares anonymous aggregated information and non-identifying information with third parties, certain provisions in its privacy policy states that Niantic would be ready to “disclose any information about you (or your authorized child) that is in [their] possession or control to government or law enforcement officials or private parties as [they], in [their] sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate.”

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Furthermore, privacy agreement also says that Pokémon Go collects data about its users as a “business asset”, meaning to say that if the company was ever sold or ever bankrupt, the agreement states that it can legally sell your personally identifiable info to the highest bidder or any other company.

What’s more, you will only receive a notice and 30 days period to refuse the disclosure.

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  • Solution: Create a separate account

To play Pokémon Go, you need to use either a Google account or create a Pokémon Club account. One possible solution to practise a safer Pokémon Go experience would be to create a new Google account specifically for playing purposes. Thus you can register separately without any private details rather than disclosing to external developers your personal account.

 

  • Issue: Granting unnecessary permissions to the app

It is so important when installing any app to read the fine print and review the app’s permissions to know exactly what you are giving away and if you are comfortable running it.

Perhaps a little perturbing is the fact that even after you have terminated your Pokémon Go account, Niantic, its clients, affiliates, or service providers may still save your information and account data for a reasonable period of time.

Additionally, the app was found to request access to your Contacts list, although the game does not seem to require this info as of the moment and the app works fine without it. (To withdraw from this permission, simply go to your Settings and remove Contacts permission)

  • Solution: Review the fine print

If you have already installed an app but are unsure about what permissions you may have given away to it, you can review the permissions any time.

For iOS:

Select Settings > Scroll to apps section > Select app to access and find out more about its permissions.

Check our BolehVPN step-by-step guide on how to secure your iPhone’s privacy!

For Android:

Select Settings > Choose Apps > Select an App > Select Permissions

Other tips

After reviewing app permissions and you have got time to spare, you can also look over an app’s privacy policy which can usually be found in the app itself or online (Such as Pokémon Go’s full privacy policy)

As much as possible, avoid from syncing external apps to your accounts such as Google or Facebook to authenticate accounts. This way you can prohibit developers and third party agencies from gaining your confidential information.

And of course, you can always further enhance your online presence and security with the help of a VPN service to completely encrypt your entire Internet connection when using Internet-connected apps on your smartphone such as Pokémon Go!

BolehVPN will help prevent apps from viewing all the data they are trying to access such as your browsing history, location and other personal details so you can protect your privacy when you go Pokémon hunting!

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