Wednesday, July 13, 2016

American Stupidity - Thy Name Is Pokemon GO

I am a miserable old man. Fine, I can live with that. But I also like to consider myself a relatively smart individual. I do my best to learn as much as I can about something before I agree to do it. That includes downloading apps to my phone. Did any of you people actually read the list of functions the Facebook Messenger app wants access to just to be part of your phone? You should, because half that list has nothing to do with posting pictures of your lunch or liking grandma's first Facebook comment.

Then along comes this Pokemon GO and, once again, Americans fall prey to a slick marketing campaign. Niantic, the game's developer, knows its brain-dead American audience very well and it suckered everyone into thinking that Pokemon GO was the greatest thing ever. The app has seen millions of downloads and it is on its way to becoming a more popular app than Twitter.

Everyone raves about Pokemon GO because it "gets people outside" and "helps promote local businesses and landmarks." You know what else it does? It causes dozens of people at a time to start sifting through the hedges outside of police precincts looking for little characters that don't exist. It causes bicyclists and motorists to take their eyes off the road and get into even more accidents. It causes pedestrians to take their eyes off where they are going and walk into walls, light poles, moving traffic, and even open manholes.

Sounds like fun, right? But I'm just being a miserable old man, right? Ok, then how about this? Along with diverting your attention away from important things like the law and other people, Pokemon GO also:

  • Allows Niantic and anyone else Niantic chooses to read your Google email
  • Allows Niantic to send Google emails through your account as you
  • Allows Niantic to access your Google drive folders and files and DELETE them if Niantic wants to
  • Monitors your Google search history and your Google maps navigation history and sends all of that data back to Niantic
  • Allows Niantic to access ALL of the files you have stored in any Google account, including the pictures you made private
  • Potentially gives Niantic access to all of your other online accounts (ALL OF THEM) that use your Google email account as your username
On July 11, 2016, Niantic admitted that it had gone overboard with its privacy policies in error. It says that it is "working on a solution," which means anyone getting the app up to this day is still giving Niantic these permissions, and it apologizes. Really?

The thing is that Niantic apologized, but it has not put any stop to collecting this data. Niantic claims that Google confirmed that no account data was gathered, but do you believe them? In this day and age where consumer trend information is worth a fortune, do you really believe that Niantic is not collecting every piece of data about you that you just allowed it to collect?

Also, read the apology. Why does Niantic need access to your Google account and your Google email anyways? Does Jigglypuff plan on sending an email to your mom? Is Pikachu looking for places to put new files? Even at its very best, this app is way too intrusive, yet millions of you are falling for it.

Take the time to read the permissions you give Facebook Messenger as well. All of the permissions pop up on a list you guys conveniently ignore before you download these apps. When you download the app, you are allowing Facebook to:

  • Mess with your Internet connection
  • Read your phone call log
  • Read any data about your contacts
Some of the fears about Facebook, such as it controls your phone's camera and microphone, are true. But if you want to use Facebook's video chat, then Facebook needs control of these functions. But why does Facebook need to be able to alter or interrupt my network connection? Why does Facebook need to leaf through the calls I have made or taken, and why does Facebook need access to my phone book?

I'm an old geezer, so people tend to ignore my warnings about technology. But when I hit them with proof, they just shake their heads and walk away. Niantic has no reason to fix these policies. As long as you agree to them when you download the app, Niantic can keep anything it wants in these permissions. 

This is suddenly not so funny anymore. Corporate America is using your disinterest in reading contracts to take your information and take control of your cyber world.

So go ahead, America. Keep driving over curbs and looking through the hedges at police precincts for little creatures that don't exist. It sure beats getting your noses out of your phones and dealing with the real problems we are experiencing, right?

George N Root III is a grumpy old man with a point. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at stay OFF HIS LAWN!!