Stay alert to all the dangers, trainers

Zach Hansen, 21, of Newhall, looks at his screen as he plays Pokemon Go near Ruby's Pizza on July 14, 2016 in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Francie Williamson/The Gazette)
Zach Hansen, 21, of Newhall, looks at his screen as he plays Pokemon Go near Ruby's Pizza on July 14, 2016 in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Francie Williamson/The Gazette)

As the “Pokemon Go” craze ravages the Corridor, it’s important to remember that while the incentives to exercise and be more active in the community are welcome, security risks exist too.

For the uninitiated, “Pokemon Go” is an augmented reality game that allows players, also called trainers, to locate and “catch” digital pocket monsters using a smartphone’s GPS and camera. The little critters can pop up nearly anywhere — at a church, in a park, on the street, or even in your office bathroom.

The augmented reality world co-opts community landmarks, turning them into “stops” where trainers can get supplies or “gyms” where captured Pokemon can be trained and battled.

But this highly addictive game has led to some real-world consequences. Wandering in town while focusing on a smartphone screen can result in accidents ranging from stubbed toes to broken bones. There are hidden security risks as well.

As initially offered, “Pokemon Go” allowed trainers to log in using a Google account. Those selecting this option — and many did — unknowingly granted the game full access to their Google account information. According to Google, “when you grant full account access, the application can see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account (but it can’t change your password, delete your account, or pay with Google Wallet on your behalf).”

After tech experts sounded an alarm, game manufacturer Niantic offered an updated app that accesses only the basic Google profile information it needed. That update was made available late Tuesday.

Perhaps more troublesome for privacy advocates is information tucked within the game’s user agreement that the company considers user data it collects “a business asset.” In shorthand, this means the company will keep what it collects, including personally identifiable information, until it decides the data is no longer valuable or the company is sold. In the latter case, your data may be part of the sale.

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It’s only one recent reminder of the way new technologies are raising new questions about consumer protection and privacy.

So have fun, players, but in your quest to #CatchThemAll be mindful of dangers not only in the physical world, but in the virtual world as well.

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Share your comments and ideas with us:(319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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