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

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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.

Pokewhat?

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Conclusion

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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