The popularity of the phone-enabled game Pokemon Go burst on the scene without much preamble, it seemed to me. But then again, I’m not a gamer and could hardly describe myself as in touch with the latest trends. What I hear about this new game, however, is disturbing. People devoured the app and downloaded it by the millions without questioning…anything. It turns out, first iterations of the game were dangerously close to violating an individual’s privacy by having the ability to access personal information and other data. Those loopholes have supposedly been addressed in the newer versions. Still, the game is a geo-mapping app, during which all imagery is collected and uploaded to a central database. The player essentially becomes a collector for Google Earth. Whether actively playing or not, the geoloc is constantly reporting back for collection. And what about pirate copies without privacy settings? And what about other peoples’ privacy? When capturing Pokemons, are players mindful of their surroundings, i.e. while taking a picture are license plates, reflective surfaces, or other identification information in the picture? Are you in an area that is private property? Also, the location where you take a picture of a Pokemon is also likely embedded in the picture’s metadata.
Gamers have embraced Pokemon Go by the millions, and yet, there was a great hue and cry over the collection/databasing of phone numbers by the National Security Agency. Is it more threatening when the government is involved? People fear information being taken from them, but in reality people give up all manner of information, personal and quite revealing, on Facebook, through data collection buyer clubs such as at the grocery store, to Amazon, and now to a game, Pokemon…which makes the players hapless mobile collection agents. Privacy issues are worth serious examination and discussion in this complex world. Indeed, the very notion of privacy is nearly extinct. In the meantime, however, please take a moment and think about the meaning and value of privacy, yours and others’.
Any mis-information about the nature of the Pokemon Go game is the result of my mis-understanding of the facts I’ve read and I take responsibility for any such errors.