Pokémon GO or NO? This Latest Fad Could Be Both Digitally and Physically Dangerous - ITS Tactical

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Pokémon GO or NO? This Latest Fad Could Be Both Digitally and Physically Dangerous

By Rob Henderson


Last week, Pokémon GO hit the app store and took the world by storm. Overnight, thousands of people took to the streets in search of digital cartoon characters. Countless stories, photos and posts documented people of all ages jumping off the couch and getting out into the world.

However, while Pokémon GO may have done more to combat childhood obesity in one weekend than Michelle Obama did in eight years, there’s several dangers to consider with both the app and its usage.


pokemon scraggy

If you’re reading this and feel completely lost, you’re not alone. Unless you were born in the late eighties/early nineties or have an odd fascination with Japanese cartoons, chances are you’ve never heard of Pokémon. Originally developed as a Game Boy game, it featured fictional creatures, dubbed Pokémon and allowed users (Trainers) to capture and battle with these creatures.

In addition to the video games, trading cards and television shows were created centering around Pokémon. Many children of the nineties spent a large portion of their childhood steeped in Pokémon culture; myself included.

Introducing Pokémon GO


To capitalize on the popularity of the franchise and make their foray into the mobile gaming market, Nintendo released Pokémon GO. The augmented reality app allows the user to create their trainer and utilizes the location data from the phone to randomly place Pokémon creatures around them.

Similar to geocaching, the game alerts users to nearby characters and the goal is to travel to different locations to catch them. Some locations are marked as “gyms” where trainers can gather to battle one another. These locations are seemingly random and the app encourages users to get out and explore the world.

Privacy Concerns


In the fervor to catch as many Pokémon as they could, most users logged into the app without a second thought. With the app requiring either a Pokemon.com account or a Google account, many simply punched in their Google login details and got to customizing their characters.

However, over the last few days some users voiced concerns as the app appeared to be granted full access to your Google account. For those unfamiliar, full access allows an app to read all of your emails and send email as you, access and delete all your Google Drive documents, view your search history, Maps navigation history and much more.

In short, this app has the potential to be a privacy nightmare. In addition to full Google account access, the app can track and store GPS and location data from your phone, allowing developers to physically see where you’ve been.

The app development company Niantic commented on user’s concerns and stated that the full account access requested was an oversight. Recently, they released an update to reduce the permissions the app requests. However, users that have already installed the app will need to re-authenticate. Those concerned about privacy would probably be better off steering clear of this app, just due to the possible geolocation data collection alone.

Physical Concerns


In addition to the numerous privacy concerns with the app, many users seem to be throwing caution to the wind when it comes to hunting down these digital animals. Neighborhoods, businesses, parks and schools have been overrun with users of the app and it seems like even basic situational awareness is being ignored.

Police departments and government officials have been forced to post warnings, reminding Pokémon GO users to do simple things like look both ways before crossing the street and not wander into dark, unknown areas at night. Several reports have cited users being mugged at known locations in the app by criminals that know people will be gathering there and will at the very least, have an expensive smartphone.

Even a Military base was forced to issue a warning reminding troops not to chase the virtual Pokémon into restricted areas of the base. Needless to say, it doesn’t just seem to be young people running into issues. Many adults have been involved in collisions, both walking and driving while using the app.


If you’re one of the thousands of aspiring trainers, we wish you the best of luck in your virtual endeavors. However, we caution you to remain alert, both on a digital and a physical front. Don’t travel to unknown areas at night and risk confrontations with strangers. Don’t use the app while operating a vehicle either.

When using the app, keep your head on a swivel to be aware of your surroundings. No one cares how awesome the Pokémon you just caught is if you’re denting the hood of their car with your head.

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  • P.J. Morgan

    If somebody is worried about being tracked via gps. Go ahead and throw your phone away because it’s already tracking your every move

    • John Hansen

      This. I can’t remember how to access it bit your phone even maps where you go. I looked at it one day and it was a very accurate map of where I had been in the last 30 days.

  • nrhck

    The google account access was (apparently) not intentional, and an iOS concern only. An update is rolling out to address it: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2016/07/12/pokemon-go-has-access-to-your-entire-google-account.aspx

  • Ken Bass

    Very well written, good job Rob!

  • David Everhart

    The article didn’t mention pedophiles luring kids into places with it.

  • Phillip Rusty Boisselle

    My sister introduced me to it today…

  • TomStn

    same game as Ingress (2013) https://www.ingress.com/ only a “poké” layer above it

  • greggorievich

    Vintage Ingress player, here. Ingress is a game from a few years back that the same company (Niantic) developed. It’s not quite as beautifully done as Pokemon Go, but the concept is largely the same – go somewhere in physical reality and interact with in game objects. I don’t play all that often anymore. Ingress, though, had an 18+ clause in the terms of service, so some of the risks were somewhat reduced. A few comments that are probably not relevant, but useful for the curious:
    – Pokemon Go uses much of the code from Ingress, as well as in game features. The radius of influence, as it were, is the same for example – you have to be within a certain distance of an ingame element to interact. (This matters more in ingress as some ingame objects are placed very precisely).
    – The “Gyms” and “poke-stops” are not random locations. The data is borrowed from Ingress’ “Portals” which are a combination of procedurally generated and user-submitted content. The lore or back story of Ingress indicates that portals are most likely to appear around cultural artifacts or art. Churches, local restaurants, sculptures, architecture, and so forth. The majority of them were submitted by players (for example, my homehown had no portals until I took a long walk and submitted a dozen or two new ones). All of those portals are now poke stops and gyms. In fact the pictures and descriptions are copied verbatim from Ingress, and if you read them, you’ll find that some of them have bits of lore and back story that make no sense in the Pokemon universe. This is handy as I don’t play Pokemon Go, but when I go out for a walk with friends that do I can just play Ingress alongside them.
    – This crossover is also the source of some risk in Pokemon Go. Since Ingress players are all over 18, there was a tendency to submit portals in locations that were suitable or convenient for them. There are lots of portals at bars, and many are intentionally organized to be accessible in a vehicle. I don’t fault Niantic for borrowing data between the games, and it’s not the first time (I’ll explain in the next point.)
    Nitantic has long been suspected of data mining. They started out as a project within Google, though I don’t know if they still are. Some of the suspicious coincidences include the following.
    – Another app that Niantic Makes is called “Field Trip”. It points you towards interesting restaurants, culturally significant things, sculptures, architecture, and so forth. Lots of things that literally match the rules for submitting a portal in Ingress. I’ve never looked to see if any of the data seems to match “too closely”.
    – As Niantic is/was part of Google, they were long suspected of using Ingress to add locaitons to Google Maps, optimize walking and driving paths, and so forth. I don’t believe this was ever really admitted to or proven, though.
    I don’t think that matters, being that if you have a smartphone, unless you’re very careful about it your location is tracked 24/7 anyway.
    Ingress was not without its risks, too. As there are two competing factions, the overlap between online trolls and real life was concerning at times. In my city a group of the opposing faction to my own was found out to be literally stalking other players – taking their photo, gathering details on who they were, where they worked and so forth. It was very concerining and I’m not sure what ever came of it.
    Additionally, even though you could not actually see a player as a blip on the map, you could track their location and follow them based on their activity. If you attacked, destroyed, or built things in the game it was noted on a particular comms channel in the app, and online. I would often be at home and coordinate other players via the online “Intel Map”. I was helping them, but someone else who wanted to follow or stalk them could easily do so, which is concerning to me.
    I once was asked “Hey, you work near <redacted> School, right? You always own those portals, you and <redacted other player>, and you seem to always hit them just after 5pm.” It was an innocent comment, but the fact that someone could figure out where I work or live based on my gameplay was very concerning to me.
    On the other hand, the Ingress community was generally great. My faction-mates and I would often meet up to do group operations or have get togethers at bars or portals. I met a lot of fun poeple and had a good time. But while I was always cautious and situationally aware, I imagine a lot of kids won’t be. Here’s hoping we don’t hear of any Pokemin Go related tragedies.

  • Strych9

    While privacy concerns are something to be taken seriously clearly physical dangers are to be taken more seriously. 

    That said, if people are going to do stupid things that on them, not on the game or it’s devs. If you manage to hurt yourself while using this program that’s your problem. If you hurt someone else then you’re legally responsible for that and again, your problem.

    Stupid people being easily distracted is not new. I was at home one summer while in college and was on my way to work when I witnessed a guy driving on a 75mph highway while doing a crossword puzzle on his steering wheel. Such behavior is just as dangerous as playing Pokemon while driving. 

    As a side note: I grew up in the 90’s and remember Pokemon, Pogs, Tamagotchi and the rest. I never really understood why people got so into those things. I figured they were all fads. Tamagotchi and Pogs certainly were fads but it would appear Pokemon has survived.

  • seniorboats09

    So here is my early morning two cents while I drink my coffee before I get out on the compound to conduct my daily Senior Chief business, I don’t play these virtual games to start with, however I’m a single father of a high school daughter who is pretty active being a cheerleader and all, but nonetheless these girls play these smartphone games. One thing I have taught her, and thankfully one of the things that stuck is cyber security. Though she plays during the day, she deletes it a couple of hours prior to her final stopping point of the day. This hopefully reduces the opportunity for these cowardly cyber criminals to show up at her location. Enough said there. My collateral duty at my command is the Public Affairs Officer, I deal with great numbers of Scouts, Cadets, JROTC, students and the likes weekly for tours. One point I drive home to these young adults is the importance of learning life skills, meaning getting your ass off the virtual world of gaming and go outside. I let them know that in the real world you don’t respawn after 30 seconds, you don’t heal as you run about looking for little red crosses behind trees and on buildings, and that the enemy, you’d better be smarter than he is. Granted like in a previous comment I read here, about Michelle Obama and her failure to get kids to PT after 8 years and Pokémon’s 5 minute success getting couch people off their asses and at least walking, it gets lazy people out. People need to wake up, how many Pokémon Go players can simply change a tire on a car? Reality people, reality. ITS keep pressing forward and all the forum readers here, the time is coming when the sh.. will hit the fan. Let’s be prepared for whatever may come and quit worrying about the secret suckachu Pokémon.

  • JesusFinChris

    It’s called “use your brain”… the one thing children these days don’t do and haven’t been passed down or taught to do by their parents. Christ, children are fat, stupid and lazy these days. They need to get their fat asses up, get exercise and figure out how to get into restricted places to catch Pokémon and safely gather intell without get themselves caught from being morbidly obese and unable to walk a couple steps without getting winded. People in my town couldn’t seem to figure out that they could get on a boat — a simple paddleboat would do — to catch a Pokémon in an otherwise off-limits area on land. They can get on the boat, paddle over there, catch the damn thing, ride off, and they don’t even have to go on private property. What’s so freakin’ hard about that? You got these slanted-eyed Japs and Koreans who are a hell of a lot smarter than 99% of these shotgun-toatin’, imbred, double-wide-trailer-born ‘Muricans these days and feeding ’em products that they’re too low on the evolutionary chain to consume without being hit by buses. Ignorant freakin’ people man…

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