Pursuing Pokemon Go Characters
If you walked down the street during the past week, you probably saw more people than usual staring at their phones trying to “catch” Pokemon characters. An estimated 7.5 million people have downloaded the Pokemon Go mobile app since its launch during the first week of July.
Pokemon was a huge hit in the 1990s with multiple video games, card games and television shows. In the early part of July, the franchise has made a comeback with Pokemon Go. This augmented reality mobile app, developed by Niantic, uses a phone’s GPS and clock to detect a user’s location to make Pokemon characters “appear” in the person’s surroundings on a mobile phone screen. The successful player can then “catch” the characters. The mobile app is available as a free download.
A game that could threaten a player’s privacy
- Email address
- IP address
- The web page a user visited prior to logging into Pokemon Go
- The username and a user’s location
Additionally, if a Google account was used to sign-in on an iOS device, Niantic had access to the user’s entire Google account including read and write access to a user’s email and Google Drive documents.
The game goes on, but Pokemon becomes less intrusive
Companies can learn a lesson from Pokemon Go about privacy
Besides collecting Pokemon characters, there is more to be learned from playing the game. The privacy controversy is instructive in a couple of ways. First, it highlights the importance of privacy-by-design when creating a product.
Additionally, companies should limit access and collection of information to that which is necessary for its business purposes. Reputational harm and increased risk of legal liability can result from the unnecessary collection and storage of personal information.