Pokémon Go, a smartphone game developed by Niantic, is sweeping the world at the moment. Among the hype surrounding this, there has been a somewhat vocal minority claiming that the game is nothing more than a data mining tool that is being used as a means of government surveillance.
So let’s look at the facts and start with the low-level stuff that now seems to be almost run of the mill in terms of privacy concerns when it comes to smartphone apps.
Pokémon Go collects your IP address and email address. No a great deal to worry about there. Perhaps more intrusively still, logs the webpage that you visited before logging on to Pokémon Go.
It also tracks your GPS location, how long you stayed in any one location for, who else was there, how you got there etc. This is a common ‘feature’ in smartphones.
Now things get a bit weird.
If you’re logging in through your Google account, then you’re handing over read and write access to Niantic. That’s right, they have full access to your Google account including your emails.
Niantic might not care about your inbox, but what happens if their servers get hacked – almost certainty to become a target for hackers given the popularity of the game.
When using the app you’re also giving Niantic to share your information with “third parties” who may use that information for “research and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes.”