If you are between the ages of 9 and 99 you probably spent your entire weekend, and most of the past week, walking around your city or neighborhood trying to catch rare Pokémon or battle at a Gym in the new gaming craze sweeping the nation Pokémon Go. Everywhere you turn are groups of people huddling in parks or on street corners to maximize a Poké Stop that is about to run out or hunt for an elusive Charmander or Magikarp. America has turned into a nation of people with low phone batteries who are seconds away from getting hit by a car because they aren’t paying attention to their surrounds (read the app’s warning screen, people!). Despite the dangers, the app is way too fun to quit so real life will have to take a backseat to important endeavors like leveling up that prized Pikachu.
However, it’s been revealed that Pokémon Go might have a darker or more insidious side than previously thought. As reported by Buzzfeed and other outlets, logging into the game via Google is giving the game access to all of your email information and data. Nearly no other apps – including other mobile games made by Niantic – require this level of permission to log in to the game. Essentially, it means that the company is not only accessing your location and usage details (as, say, Uber also does) it can also gain access to your emails, Google Drive documents, Google Maps history, and a plethora of other information. Knowing the current state of major corporations and their reputations, Niantic is almost certainly using this permission to leverage your data to the fullest extent of its ability. Plus, it can also share anything it collects with other companies.
In layman’s terms: be afraid, be very afraid. Of course, even knowing this is happening might not be incentive enough to stop playing the game. It’s just that addictive. Unfortunately, that’s probably the only option you have if you want to keep your personal information safe. You can revoke access in your Google preferences, but that only protects you until you log back in again with your Google account. It’s a scary thought that should a hacker breach Niantic’s system they will have access to the bulk of your personal information. Is it scary enough for the millions of people enthralled by the game to stop playing until this permissions loophole is closed? Most likely not. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I see an Eevee lurking around the corner that needs to be captured.