Pokemon Go Hysteria Again Highlights How Media Is Happy To Be Gullible And Wrong — If It Means More Ad Eyeballs

from the First!-(and-wrong) dept

If you spend any time online, you’ve by now noticed that the internet this week belched forth a tidal wave of incessant chatter over Pokemon Go, Nintendo’s new augmented reality game involving scrambling around real-world locations to “catch” collectible, virtual beasts with your phone. The game is by any standard a smashing success, boosting Nintendo’s market cap by an estimated $9 billion in two days with the app rocketing to the top of both major app stores. The phenomenon is, frankly, pretty amazing:

As with any massive phenomenon involving tech many people don’t really understand (augmented reality in this case), the news wires immediately lit up with all manner of hysteria over the game’s impact on the real world, with much of this impact wholly imagined as sites rushed to pursue search trends and ad eyeballs. The media being, well, the media, one hoax website was able to get countless news outlets to parrot all manner of fake stories about Pokemon Go, from claims that brothers were killing brothers to reports that major traffic accidents were being caused by players running out into the middle of traffic to collect creatures that technically don’t exist.

An ouroboros of phantoms chasing phantoms.

The media also stumbled all over itself to pounce on claims that the Pokemon Go app was a privacy nightmare, busily reading your e-mail and digging through an ocean of personal data that would any second now be in the hands of nefarious hackers. Most of these reports had to be subsequently walked back with updates after analysts actually bothered to study the app and reporters started (gasp) actually asking questions about just what the app was really doing:

“But in a call with Gizmodo, Reeve backtracked his claims, saying he wasn?t ?100 percent sure? his blog post was true. On the call, Reeve also admitted that he had never built an application that uses Google account permissions, and had never tested the claims he makes in the post.

Cybersecurity expert and CEO of Trail of Bits Dan Guido has also cast serious doubt on Reeve?s claim, saying Google tech support told him ?full account access? does not mean a third party can read or send or send email, access your files or anything else Reeve claimed. It means Niantic can only read biographical information like email address and phone number.”

While the app did appear to be asking for broader Google account permissions than was necessary (on iOS and less frequently on Android), both Google and app-maker Niantic issued a statement noting this was a bug they’re busy fixing and that no personal information had actually been accessed:

“We recently discovered that the Pok?mon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pok?mon Go only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your user ID and e-mail 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 account information, in line with the data we actually access. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pok?mon Go or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pok?mon Go’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pok?mon Go needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.”

And while a bug that gives broader permissions than necessary is bad, it was far from the “hacker’s dream” and “privacy trainwreck” portrayed by dozens upon dozens of different outlets. Meanwhile, most of the data being collected is a fraction of the data being hoovered up and sold daily by your wireless carrier, something routinely forgotten by those laboring under the illusion that privacy in the cellular era still actually exists.

None of this is to say that many of the stories bubbling up amidst the Pokemon Go chaos aren’t incredibly interesting. Watching police having to remind players that the laws of the state (and of reality) still apply while playing the game has proven pretty fascinating. Interesting too are conversations about whether African Americans and Muslim Americans will have a decidedly different and potentially unpleasant experience playing the game in the land of shoot first, think later law enforcement. But the most interesting story remains the meta narrative of a press so focused on profitability and being first that it couldn’t give a flying Aerodactyl about actually being right.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Pokemon Go Hysteria Again Highlights How Media Is Happy To Be Gullible And Wrong — If It Means More Ad Eyeballs”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
38 Comments
Grey (profile) says:

I’m having a blast watching this rollout and my kids, I used to play Ingress fairly heavily, (Niantic’s precursor to Go) and the small scale hiccups of Ingress are in full bloom. (GPS spoofers, Human nature fueled rivalry and asshattery)

Once or twice a month for a while, you would hear a call go out on the police scanner, detailing a confused/suspicious person wandering around at odd hours with their phone out, the police would investigate, and you’d hear the saga end with “Just another Ingress player”.

Some players get very aggressive about Ingress. Threats and stalking have been issues, (at a low level, the worst behavior gets the most attention, even if it’s rare.)

Tomorrow I’m taking a gaggle of my eldest’s friends out driving along the Columbia river, and Forest Park… and wherever else they wish to go on the hunt for rare pokemon.

The discussions about being aware of your surroundings and other people, cars, property will be nearly constant.

Something I’ve learned, I know the names of FAR too many Pokemon on sight, for a person who never played the games.

Be safe out there folks, Don’t want your last thought to be “A wild Train uses Crush…. It’s super effective!”

Grey (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Seriously,

Every TD reader should be turning on their local scanner stream to enjoy the police running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

All those kids, (and Childlike adults 😉 ) running around OUTSIDE like they own the place… It’s a madhouse I tell you A MADHOUSE!!!

On the up side, as a regular scanner listener, I have to say I’m impressed by how calmly my local PD is handling the situation. Mostly people hear the screw ups that make the news… You don’t hear about officers calling out other officers for being idiots over the radio.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where is the praise?

Look, I do not play this game, but why are these nuts not going gaga over the fact that it is now getting kids & young adults out into the public where they are expending energy and getting exercise?

It’s just a game, as long as people are not getting harmed it should be welcomed.

ECA (profile) says:

eNTERTAINING.

For all that programming can be..
A few hackers/advertisers/others..take advantage of it.

Then our Gov. wishes we did not have ANY privacy protections.

IF a person/compnay can get Enough BASIC information..
GPS
Cellphone tracking
and abit of other DATA..

They can SPOT and show every person in the Any nation..
What an advertising ADVANTAGE.. knowing your name and email, and the city you are in, and your EXACT location..Advert to you every local advert.
Knowing your location is GREAT for hackers also..and even Thieves.. Getting OTHER info on you, they can KNOW your SS# and Maybe even catch your CC#…
As a Thief…I would LOVE to know you have left home..as I already KNOW where you live, and the Economy of the area you are in..
As an Advertiser, I know you are going to get Pizza, and send you adverts for the Other restaurants in the area..

xtian (profile) says:

As usual, this blog kind of sucks on the tech side of things.

Full-account access is indeed a privacy nightmare. Moreover, claiming it’s a ‘glitch’ is marketing spin, to make it seem like a qa issue. It was not the latter.

When you develop apps like this for a platform, you are asked what permissions you want and given a very simple menu. Reckless and lazy developers simply don’t bother to think about what they actually need and go with full-access or something otherwise over reaching, like how nearly every app wants access to your contacts or some such.

This is an endemic problem in app development. Sometimes it’s done intentionally, because any kind of data could have big returns in the future. Usually it’s done because developers don’t want to think about it and don’t care to think about consequences. There has been a big push for years to educate developers on how to do permissions properly. It’s a major security and privacy issue in the software world.

At the very least, Niantic has been grossly negligent. Apps don’t mis-function and accidentally grant full permissions, and marketplaces don’t accidentally alter the settings. The permission settings are things the developers set.

Adam (profile) says:

Re: As usual, this blog kind of sucks on the tech side of things.

Be fair. “Glitch” was the word you used, which means unintended and temporary… which would indicate your suggestion of “mis-function.” that’s why it’s a glitch. You’re making an incorrect assumption.

They word they used was “erroneously” which means WRONG. Wrong can be introduced many ways.. some of them are just like you say… intentional or laziness.. they admit it’s wrong, without blaming any cause, and they are going to fix it.

All that aside, I’m already tired of the stupid “game” and I’ve not even installed it, let alone played it.

Anonymous Cowherd says:

Re: As usual, this blog kind of sucks on the tech side of things.

It’s only a “privacy nightmare” because the OS doesn’t allow users to deny app permissions they feel are unnecessary.

The permissions are things the app developers set. But they really should be things the owner of the device sets.

DanA says:

Re: Re: As usual, this blog kind of sucks on the tech side of things.

The problem with that is that most users are stupid and unable to differentiate between permissions necessary to make the app functional vs those that are extraneous. And even if those permissions aren’t necessary for the app to work they are typically fundamental to the profit model for those ‘free’ apps so the developer has no reason to permit anyone who denies those permissions to freeload on their product.

afn29129 (profile) says:

What a prediction! 2 broke into Tiger exibit for Poke'

Duo Busted For Breaking into Zoo While Trying to Catch Pokemon

https://www.yahoo.com/news/duo-busted-breaking-zoo-while-153200541.html?nhp=1

and… 2 ‘Pokemon Go’ players plunge off cliff.. After climbing thru/over fences.

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/2-pokemon-go-players-plunge-off-cliff/

Stupid is as stupid does.

bhangad (profile) says:

Nice Piece Of Information

problem with that is that most users are stupid and unable to differentiate between permissions necessary to make the app functional vs those that are extraneous. And even if those permissions aren’t necessary for the app to work they are typically fundamental to the profit model for those ‘free’ apps so the developer has no reason to permit anyone who denies those permissions to freeload on their product.

yuvi (user link) says:

pokemon

The media also stumbled all over itself to pounce on claims that the Pokemon Go app was a privacy nightmare, busily reading your e-mail and digging through an ocean of personal data that would any second now be in the hands of nefarious hackers. Most of these reports had to be subsequently walked back with updates after analysts actually bothered to study the app and reporters started (gasp) actually asking questions about just what the app was really doing:

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...