Thanks, Gamers, for Granting Pokémon Go Access to Your Gmail Apps

Before you Pokémon Go…

You know what most people crave? Distraction. So when Pokémon Go turned young professionals around the world into zombie-like drifters and trespassers, all us adults just laughed.

“Ha ha. Kids nowadays with their augmented reality and 1990s nostalgia for inexplicable Japanese cartoons that promoted either never opening or always opening one’s eyes” (seriously, there was no middle ocular ground on those shows).

But you know who was really laughing? Niantic Labs, maker of the seemingly viral Pokémon Go game. Turns out, when you sign into the game via a Google account, you grant the game unfettered permissions to read and even send from your Gmail account. Whoops.

The “glitch” was widely reported last week, and Niantic Labs has since released an updated version of the app that removes this, uh, unwanted feature. It sounds like a tale of unintended consequences…of getting caught. Honestly, there probably wasn’t malicious intent here. But it’s a timely reminder of data capture best practices.

 Pokémon Go

One of the tenets of permission marketing, something ID and its clients practice daily, is right there in the name. We ask for permission to market to prospects, and the mechanism that enables that is the mighty form. Prospects fork over their contact information on their terms—usually in exchange for content they find relevant
enough to offset the cost—and fill out a form online. Data passes through to fill a lead record, and then 7 months later, that person gets a cold call from Esurance…Kidding.

But there are plenty of methods out there that result in companies and organizations knowing your personal information without asking permission.

One tactic routinely utilized by list renters is scraping. This involves pulling personal information from social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. In some cases, scraping results in a full business card. Needless to say, when you shove someone in a campaign without them opting in, they normally don’t engage all that much. After all, they never gave you any signals that the topic is relevant.

Also needless to say, scraping is not a best practice. But as a consumer and protector of your own personal information, the Internet is a treacherous place at times. In-store and at-event free Wi-Fi has been abused over and over in the past as a method of stealing personal data.

The Pokémon Go example is just the latest in a series of intentional and unintentional scenarios that make us all update our passwords (which means the next time you sign in, you scream an expletive and furiously riffle through your wallet hoping to find the sticky note on which you jotted down your indecipherable new iTunes password: “What the shit is Snalgthar421?”).

What I find comforting is to remember that the Internet is basically a giant field. Each plot is owned by some evil overlord. And when they build a giant warehouse for us to comingle inside and escape the rain, it’s always at a cost. After all, most of the world’s young billionaires don’t really make any products; they sell access to your eyeballs…to advertisers. That’s the game. Wanna play? You might end up with Pikachu sending your ex an email about Cialis. But, hey, you might also see some funny cat videos.

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