If you caught the Pokémon GO bug and can’t help hunting hidden creatures across town or are merely thinking of downloading the app, there are some things you should know before putting your online privacy at stake.
We, at CyberGhost, are here to help you enjoy the content and apps you love, wherever you are. Help us fight the good fight and keep your private information private while playing Pokemon Go, with the help of these 10 tips:
- Don’t trust the unofficial versions
Since Pokémon GO is not available everywhere just yet, there are many third-party gaming websites which recommend downloading the APK from a non-Google Play link.
You will be required to modify your Android core security settings to install apps from untrusted sources.
Hackers can then download your data, steal your identity or banking information, send emails on your behalf and so on, all these with the aid of side-loaded malicious apps.
Our recommendation: if you really have to, download only the official version of the app from Niantic. If it’s not available in your location yet, wait for the official release. It’s the safest way.
- Use only HTTPS links when making payments
When buying pokécoins or making any other payments, make sure that you are directed to a “https” URL. You can also force HTTPS automatically with the help of the CyberGhost app.
- Be careful with your login information
In order to log in, you will be asked for your Google credentials. This grants Niantic, the game developer, full access to your Google Drive, including emails, browsing history, shared information and photos, in case you have an iPhone.
Think twice before accepting. Perhaps you could create a Google account specifically for playing purposes, where you would not disclose any personal details (you can always make them up). Or you can create a Pokémon Club account from scratch.
Update: Niantic have recently made a statement concerning the full permissions to the players’ Google account granted by the app. Apparently this was an error and Google “Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs”. Thus, users do not need to take any action themselves.
- Pay attention to permissions and manually withdraw them
First of all, Pokémon GO will require your location. This comes as no surprise, since, well that’s what the game is all about. It also needs to access your storage, because there will be additional data required by the games.
However, it’s quite surprising that the game requests access to your Contacts list. The app is rumored to become a multiplayer experience in the future, but right now, it does not need this info.
The solution? Go to your Settings and withdraw Contacts permission. The app will continue to work.
- Read the Terms and Conditions; know what you’re agreeing to
We know that you can’t wait to catch little fluffy monsters, but before starting, read the T&Cs you’re agreeing to. You might suffer a sudden change of heart.
If you did not have the time to read them when you first installed the app, you can find them through a simple search online.
What we found interesting is the Arbitration Notice, which states that “you agree that disputes between you and Niantic will be resolved by binding, individual arbitration, and you are waiving your right to a trial by jury or to participate as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class action or representative proceeding.”
If you realize that you’ve agreed to something you did not wish to (such as this notice), don’t worry, you can send an email to email@example.com and ask to opt out.
- If you remove the app, delete your personal information as well
If you’ve changed your mind about Pokémon GO and the info it has access to, all you need to do is go to Niantic’s website and fill in a short form:
- Enter your email address
- Write “Delete Account” in the subject line
- Provide additional information about your account if you feel the need to
- Read and check all four boxes
- Add an attachment only if you wish to
- Hit the Submit button and enjoy being private online, once again.
Please bear in mind that “a profile deletion request is irreversible”, so if you’re not sure yet, do not do it.
- Take extra measures when using public WiFis
When going Pokémon hunting, the use of a public WiFi over your own mobile data is very tempting.
We cannot stress enough, however, the many risks of connecting to a public, unprotected WiFi. You’re basically handing hackers, on a silver platter, personal info, credit card information and even security credentials.
The solution? You can always install CyberGhost on your preferred device or platform and completely encrypt your entire Internet connection.
This way, no hacker will be able to steal your personal data.
- Consider the real dangers of virtual reality, especially if you have children
Even though the outside world is not really our territory, we care about the global safety of our users.
Players and particularly children (but adults as well, so beware!) can be lured to isolated locations where they are exposed to all sorts of dangers.
It’s important to talk to children about such risks, ask them about what happened at their last Pokéstop lure, maybe go with them on the next one and teach them that the “stranger, danger!” rule applies even in virtual reality.
You could also turn off in-app purchases to avoid unexpected bills and teach your child not to disclose private info.
- Question everything
If you feel that the T&Cs are against your rights or that the game is sending you to search for Pokémons in unsafe locations, let the company know. You can contact them on their website or on social media, the choice is all yours.
The important thing is to express your opinion, otherwise the company won’t know what and if they need to change anything.
- Revoke permissions from third-party accounts
If Pokémon GO or any other app is linked to a third-party account, like Google, Facebook or Twitter, you can try to remove their authorization from your Google, Facebook or Twitter account, by going to the Settings section.
Chances are your app will continue to function normally and you won’t have handed all your private info to the developer.
This sums up our 10 tips on online privacy for when you’re playing Pokémon GO or, for that matter, any other app that needs your personal details. We hope you found them useful and if you have anything to add, please drop us a line in the Comments section.