There are 722 Pokémon species hiding in front of bushes, landmarks, museums, stores, restaurants and parks, and they are beckoning you to catch them. Pokémon Go, a virtual reality mobile app, is catching on with “moveset” speed. Smartphone users are meeting up at PokéStops and “gyms” to battle it out and staying up until the wee hours to capture the rare ones. Are you or your loved ones joining the more than 100 million people who’ve downloaded the app to “Catch ‘em all”?
As with all mobile apps, there are risks to consider when using Pokémon Go. Here are some tips on how to minimize them:
Guard Your Physical Safety
Use common sense safety practices: play in groups; don’t play while driving your car or riding your bike. Stay aware of your physical surroundings and be very careful about tracking Pokémon in isolated areas. Respect the property rights of others and remember that some locations are private or protected. Use the buzz feature, so that you can know when you are close to a Pokémon and look where you are going at the same time.
Permissions and Data
Stop and think before clicking “I agree” and installing Pokémon Go (or any app). Know what you are agreeing to regarding the collection and use of your data. Read the privacy practices and terms of service and make sure you are comfortable with them before installing the app. If you download it, update your security and privacy settings to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.
GPS data is required to play. Avoid playing in places you don’t want to be geo-tagged. Don’t take pictures of protected property (e.g., personal property, health-related locations or people in them, government or law enforcement offices or other restricted private areas or information) without expressed permission. Pay attention to what is in the background or foreground and within reflective surfaces of any photos you take.
Take Cybersecurity Precautions
Download only official versions from the developer (Niantic) on Google Play or the iTunes App store. Malicious code has been found hiding in look-alike Pokémon apps or Pokémon tip documents, so make sure to download the official versions of the app and any future updates.
Use a unique, new trainer (screen) name that includes no personal information (avoiding your birth date/year, address, phone number, name and other personal details). Others can view the trainer name at gyms, and it is also displayed if you place lures at PokéStops.
As always, use a unique and strong password or passphrase. A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember. On many sites and apps, you can even use spaces!
Always update the app to the latest version to ensure that you have the most up-to-date security features and patches.
For more smartphone advice, check out Stay #CyberAware While On the Go: Safety Tips for Mobile Devices.
About the Author
J. S. is an analyst at the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.