Am I even allowed to write about Pokémon at my age? It is clearly a massive name for our children and the rest of their generation, but as an old time gamer I think I should still be allowed to care about a game this big, and also about the risks being involved in playing it.
Pokémon GO was first released officially in July 2016 (the 16th of July in the Netherlands), and it took until September 2018 to roll it out across Russia and many other countries. Niantic, the studio that developed the game for iOS and Android mobile devices, reported in 2019 that their product had been installed by more than a billion people. As a private company they do not have to publish their financial data but we can safely assume they earned billions of dollars on this ‘free-to-play’ game.
The idea of the game is to go out walking and catch Pokémon that will appear in your garden, in the park, on the streets or in your room and using your camera the game actually places those Pokémon in those environments which is smart and really fun. By catching Pokémon you, the trainer, level up and the more you walk and fight against other people playing the game you get more rewards and higher levels. A very rewarding and well thought out gaming loop.
Now the game really starts shining if you add friends from all over the world by sharing a trainer code, or in my case, a QR code that identifies you as a Pokémon GO player. Suddenly you can start sending gifts like food or Pokéballs to other people, even if you do not know them at all, and trade Pokémon with them to complete your Pokédex (your inventory of about 600 Pokémon you are able to collect).
What a lot of players, especially children, won’t understand is that each gift or trade includes the exact location where you found the item or Pokémon you are sending. This seems fine at first, but if other players are as lazy as I am they won’t move around as much as the game wants you to and just catch what is available close to their home or work.
It is very cool to receive a gift from someone in Australia but the game will show at which PokéStop it was found and even includes a picture and a link to open that location in Google Maps. Now I am not sure about you, but I feel that is very close to invading my home privacy and I am not comfortable sharing that with just any random person on the Internet.
So feel free to scan my QR code from within your copy of Pokémon GO and let’s all be friends, but please be aware that Niantic will sell your data to third parties and will send your location with any gift or trade transaction you perform!
Happy Pokémon hunting…
July 20, 2020 at 15:10
In my opinion people have the right to keep their own privacy for themself. If people don’t want their location been shared the producer of Pokémon Go have to create a option for giving permission to share the players their location. But there have to be a ‘extra’ option to receive items without sharing their location, because otherwise they can’t receive items from friends without knowing their location. And if I playing Pokémon Go I want to do it all at myself and I don’t want to get anything for completing my journey of Pokémon, so it’s more fun to be catching and collecting items for my own without any help. Anyway again.. people must have the choice to keep their own privacy if they want.
July 20, 2020 at 15:22
I completely agree with you, Jordan, and I can not believe that Niantic still does not give players the option to hide their location.
July 21, 2020 at 07:05
i try to get my gifts from the main street in my town, exception for the people in my towns pokemon group, then i represent my street or hint them which routes i am walking. also i try to not send gifts from playgrounds so no one mistakes me for a creep, but some days im tired or just lazy and with increasing friend list it getting harder and i end up sending everyone gifts from the one closest to my home
July 21, 2020 at 09:53
As you could see from the gift I sent you, I am also a lazy player that could be mistaken for a creep 😉 But as long as you are careful who you send what I think it is still very enjoyable.
August 23, 2020 at 03:23
yes, the game shows the pokestop. yes you can see the location on google maps. but that’s a far cry from obtaining the address and GPS coordinates of your house. most stops, where they are in residential areas have multiple houses around them, any or none of which could be the domicile of the person who spun the stop and sent the gift. so unless your house is the sole residence within a quarter mile radius of a given stop in an empty field, there’s nothing to worry about.
there is a pokestop in a local neighborhood park. there are 8 houses in which a player can spin the stop without ever having to step outside their home. there are over 50 houses which are less than a 2 minute walk away (and i’m one of them). i have absolutely ZERO concern that if i send a gift to someone from that park that they’ll be able to determine my home address and show up at my doorstep.
there’s prudence and cautiousness (which i advocate at all times) then there’s conspiracy fear and paranoia – of which i think this article’s concern is leaning more towards.
August 23, 2020 at 10:55
Being able to zoom in on an area minutes away from the PokéStop is something that at least should be “warned for on the package” if you ask me. And I am okay(ish) with Niantic knowing this information for their own use but that data can be used or sold in other ways.
I am not super paranoid but in this article I wanted to at least give this information to those who never thought about it. Me sharing my friend code within it shows that.
Thank you for your fair opinion.