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Pokémon GO Can Access Lots Of Your Phone And Email Data

The game can 'see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account'.

12/07/2016 12:19 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:57 PM AEST
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Sam Mircovich / Reuters
Google can catch it all.

Are you having fun playing Pokémon GO? Lots of people are.

But would you be having just as much fun if you knew that you unwittingly gave the game permission to "see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account", and that it was tracking your web history and recent search terms?

Sorry to be a downer, but it's true.

In your haste to get out and start catching 'em all, you probably didn't read the game's privacy policy (full disclaimer: this writer didn't either). If you did, you might have found a few things that shocked you. If you haven't, read the whole thing here.

We'll get into the policy itself in a minute, but what is quite important is that Niantic -- the company who developed the game -- has basically gone in and given itself access to your ENTIRE GOOGLE ACCOUNT. As pointed out by blogger Adam Reeve in a post here, it's easy to check out which apps have access to your Google account by clicking here.

I did. This is what I found.

Google
"FULL ACCESS TO YOUR GOOGLE ACCOUNT"

Full access. This came from simply downloading the game from the Apple app store and logging in through the game's front page, meaning no doubt thousands of other people are in the same situation as me. Let's see what "full access" means:

Google
WOAH NELLY

"Nearly all information in your Google account". This is pretty extraordinary, and the discovery has sent tech media into outrage (see here, here, here and here). In response, Niantic issued a release confirming that it wasn't actually reading your emails and that it would soon be reducing the amount of information that it is able to access from your account:

OK, so they say they're scaling back the Google information available. But there's still the matter of the game's own privacy policy. Here it is again, but in short, here's a few points:

  • "Our servers automatically record certain information about how a person uses our Services... [which] may include information such as a User's Internet Protocol (IP) address, user agent, browser type, operating system, the web page that a User was visiting before accessing our Services, the pages or features of our Services to which a User browsed and the time spent on those pages or features, search terms, the links on our Services that a User clicked on, and other statistics."
  • "We collect and store information about your (or your authorized child's) location when you (or your authorized child) use our App and take game actions that use the location services made available through your (or your authorized child's) device's mobile operating system...You understand and agree that by using our App you (or your authorized child) will be transmitting your (or your authorized child's) device location to us and some of that location information, along with your (or your authorized child's) user name, may be shared through the App."
  • "W will collect... your Google email address, your PTC registered email address, and/or your Facebook registered email address."
  • "During game play we will collect certain information, such as your (or your authorized child's) user name and messages sent to other users... we also will collect other information (such as country and language) that cannot be used to identify you (or your authorized child) unless combined with other identifying information."
  • "We may use both session Cookies and persistent Cookies to identify that you (or your authorized child) have logged in to the Services and to tell us how and when you (or your authorized child) interact with our Services. We may also use Cookies to monitor aggregate usage and web traffic routing on our Services and to customize and improve our Services."
  • "Some third party services providers that we engage (including third party advertisers) may also place their own Cookies on your hard drive."
  • "We cooperate with government and law enforcement officials or private parties to enforce and comply with the law. We may disclose any information about you (or your authorized child) that is in our possession or control to government or law enforcement officials or private parties as we, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate: (a) to respond to claims, legal process (including subpoenas); (b) to protect our property, rights, and safety and the property, rights, and safety of a third party or the public in general; and © to identify and stop any activity that we consider illegal, unethical, or legally actionable activity."

So before you get out on your lunch break and start searching down that Squirtle, just remember -- you've signed up for something you may not have intended to.

And whatever you do, don't be like this Australian guy who reportedly lost his job in a Pokémon GO-fuelled rage.

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