Over the past few days, the internet has been ablaze with all things Pokémon Go, an augmented reality smartphone game that allows players to search the real world to find and capture Pokemon. It launched big and became the top-selling app on both iPhone’s app store and Google Play just days after its release in the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Pokémon Go is already huge! According to Reuters, it’s already been installed on over 5% of active Android devices in use in the U.S., making it more popular than Tinder and its daily active user population is already larger than that of Twitter.
So far, Pokémon Go is only available in restricted markets, with a release in additional regions, including the UK, Europe and Japan likely to happen “within a few days” according to the Wall Street Journal. But that has not stopped Pokémon fans worldwide from gaining early access to the Nintendo behemoth.
Android device users are sideloading the US APK directly onto their device bypassing the App Store whereas UK-based iOS users are pre-empting the delayed release by creating throwaway US-based iTunes accounts and then downloading the game from the US-store.
Mr B & Friends very own Pokémon enthusiast, Stu Nelson comments that:
It’s the first AR game I’ve felt really engaged with. Bringing back a favourite game from my childhood but combining it with 2016 tech.
Stu adds: “I haven’t been a fan of the previous attempts to “modernize” Pokemon. Making it a 3D game or improving the graphics didn’t really add anything. Pokémon Go is just using the the Pokemon universe and then creating a totally new experience rather than trying to update the classic game. AR allows you to be submerged into the Pokemon universe like never before.”
But it would appear that no digital tech is free from a privacy scandal.
Any new user who signs up for Pokémon Go with a Google account (the other option to sign up with a Pokémon.com account, is currently unavailable) has unknowingly given Nintendo and developer Niantic Labs (formerly owned by Google) full account access. That means they can capture just about anything from your Google account. Emails, photos, documents and search history are all accessible.
Niantic Labs have already addressed this concern and promised to “fix” the error.
“Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access.”
It remains to be seen how many users are willing to sacrifice their privacy to catch em all. Early success to date suggests… a lot!