Digital Download: Pokemon GO Online Safety and IRL

It’s an epidemic sweeping across the globe, forcing people out of their homes and onto the streets. If you haven’t heard of the newest craze in gaming yet, you may just be living under a rock. But watch out, because in Pokémon GO, that rock may happen to be alive.

With all the launch-week fervor, people can forget the risks that come with digital gaming. So while you head out to try to hunt down that elusive catch, keep these things in mind.lf_digitaldownload_logos_apr16_face_66310aa3074a3

Security Concerns

As with most things that require a login, information security can be a major issue. Not only do you have to worry about hackers gaining access to data servers, you also have to worry about what information you give the app itself.

Such is the case with Pokémon GO, already snagging headlines for its somewhat liberal login access permissions. Pokémon GO gives users the option to login with their Google account. Prior to an app update earlier this week, signing in with Google gave the game full access to your account. According to online security architect Adam Reeve, that included access to:

  • Read your email
  • Send email as you
  • Access all your Google Drive documents
  • Look at your search history
  • Access private photos in Google Photos

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure catching a few Zubats is worth the game having the ability to masquerade as me. Luckily, game developers have since released an update that says they “fixed Google account scope.” Still, the incident is a good lesson in being careful what you sign up for.


The first Pokemon GO app update. Changes include privacy settings.

TIP: Make sure all your online accounts are safe by using strong passwords, changing them often and using two-factor authentication when possible. Even then, when using third-party apps, be sure to look closely at access permissions and know what you’re signing up for.


Personal Privacy

Aside from major security concerns, Pokémon GO users should also worry about their personal privacy. To play, users give the game their basic information. As an augmented reality game, it also requires your phone’s location and camera to play. All that combined means game developers know who you are, where you are, what you’re looking at, and even who you’re with.

So what do they do with all that information? Well according to the Pokémon GO privacy policy:


“We may share aggregated information and non-identifying information with third parties for research and analysis, demographic profiling, and other similar purposes.”


That means game developers can give your data to other businesses if they remove your personal information first. That sounds good enough, but if you read further:


“Information that we collect from our users, including PII [personally identifiable information], is considered to be a business asset. Thus, if we are acquired by a third party…some or all of our assets…may be disclosed or transferred to a third party acquirer in connection with the transaction.”


So if you trust the game developers, your information might be safe for now, but not guaranteed in the future. If this concerns you, the privacy policy does give you options. You can contact the gaming company and request they stop collecting your information and/or they delete it. But note, you may no longer be able to access some or all of the game.

TIP: Whenever signing up for a new service or software, read (or at least skim) the privacy policy. Know your options and if you don’t trust the company or its future, rethink signing up with it.


Safety first (IRL)

There are plenty of digital dangers that come with signing up with a service or software. When it comes to augmented reality games, like Pokémon GO, that rely on roaming around outdoors, other dangers await as well.

You may have seen some of the headlines already. Woman discovers body while playing ‘Pokémon Go’ or Wildly Popular Pokemon Go Leads to Robberies, Injuries, and a Body“. Simply put, don’t put yourself in these situations just for the game.


Des Moines’ Pappajohn Sculpture Park is full of Pokéstops with lures.

Be Smart

Though fun, Pokémon GO carries its own set of risks. The best advice for people looking to play: be smart about it. Read the rules, policies and agreements. Don’t put yourself in risky situations online or off. It might be tempting to jump in and start catching Jigglypuffs with your friends, but make sure you know the risks first. Go out there, have fun, work hard to be the very best, like no one ever was. Just be smart doing it.

Have something to add? Tips, tricks, personal experiences? Leave them below in the comments section!



P.S. A few of us here at LF are a little obsessed with becoming Pokemon masters. Here are a few pictures from our adventures. You never know where one of these critters will show up!



Tiffany found a Nidoran on her pizza. Gross.


Ryan discusses politics with a Paras over lunch.



“What is this weird rabbit thing you’re throwing balls at during our walk?”


In his quest to become the very best, Tony briefly takes over the Beaverdale Masonic Temple gym.