Pokémon Go: Fact and Fiction (But Mostly Fiction)

I don’t even know how to start this. Seriously, I’ve been staring at the screen for an obscene amount of time trying to start this entry. I have to admit, I’m a little annoyed. I apologize now if this is jarred but I’m getting this off my chest.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been a casual player of Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game that has taken the world by storm. I haven’t been as intense as others, I have found a small chunk of joy in world that seems to be quickly running out.

Others have found amazing benefits from getting out and playing the game (check out this article!).

With someone making literally millions of people happy, you’d think non-Pokémon fans would just leave well enough alone.

HA! You’re wrong.

The game has earned its fair share of haters and the result has been a lot of fake or exaggerated news hitting the world wide web and casting doubt on the safety of the players.

First and foremost is the personal data aspect of the app that people don’t understand at all (I’m having flashbacks to the Facebook Messenger debate). I purposely left this out of my recent entry of What Parents Should Know because I felt it didn’t need mention. People seem to think the app is out to do everything from reading your email to stealing your baby brother after you have a temper tantrum (that’s the Goblin King you’re thinking of). It’s an argument (yes, argument) that I’ve had a lot this past week alone. I’m going to dispel the rumor now:

99% of the information you’ve seen about the app collecting personal data and emails is false.

In reality the app requires some basic information like your email address and birth date for the sake of registering users (an aspect just about every social media medium requires). From there the game does require knowing your physical whereabouts for the sake of simply playing the game. It’s an augmented-reality, map-based world. It needs to be able to track your movements to play.

There was, admittedly a hiccup in the original version (which was corrected in a recent update) that made it seem that Pokémon Go was requiring “full account access.” Niantic (the company behind the game) owned up to the mistake, corrected it, and released a statement to help clarify what had happened:

We recently discovered that the Pokémon GO account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon GO only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected. 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. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon GO or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.

Adam Reeve, the man behind the original claim, even admitted that he never tested the claims he made in his blog posts.

So please rest easy knowing that your emails and other information are safe.

Next comes the exaggerated story of the young man lured to a Pokestop and mugged at gunpoint. This one seemed so very true because it was widely covered by credible media outlets and not just the internet. But the story was exaggerated to generate views and interest in the story.

Here’s the real story directly from the victim of the attack: “I am the guy who was robbed at the Pokestop at Feise and K. In the interest of objective truth, everyone is reporting this wrong. There was never any lure. I was walking down a dark street towards a slightly out of the way pokestop and I got robbed by four kids in a black BMW. Everyone is reporting this as cunning teenagers use a lure to capture unsuspecting Pokémon players, and that’s not quite correct.”

Sorry internet.

Then there are the many stories of auto accidents as a result of drivers playing the game. One such article from CartelPress (read it here) was written as satire and was taken far too seriously and prompted the viral hashtag #DontPokémonAndDrive over this past weekend. Which, I mean, yeah… don’t Pokémon and Drive. Let’s practice common sense, but I also hope that no one would slam on the breaks in the middle of a highway for a Pidgey.

There is a great teachable moment in all of this in that you really can’t believe everything that you read on the internet and it’s important to do a little bit of research before jumping conclusions.

It is important to realize that there are some dangers to the game and the idea of “Don’t
Pokémon and Drive” should be on the top over everyone’s list. But people should take care into venturing off alone, especially at night, into unfamiliar territory. Take time to look up from your phone, looking out for others, obstacles and traffic.

Mostly, don’t let the haters bring you down. Plenty of people have tried to harp on me for playing and I am having none of it. The past month has been a rough one for a lot of people a hunting little fictional animals has been a very welcomed distraction from it all.

Now, if you don’t mind, there is a Charmander somewhere near my house and I need to beat the neighborhood children to him.

Happy hunting!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

One thought on “Pokémon Go: Fact and Fiction (But Mostly Fiction)

  1. Pingback: Pokémon Go Update Encourages User Safety | Breaking Down Digital Walls

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