My office is located on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Warwick. South Street and Main. The windows overlook the streets and we have a bird’s eye view of the all the crazy happenings that occur on a daily basis. Jaywalking, parking tickets, the occasional street argument and road rage. During the summer, when school is out, Warwick becomes particularly quiet and sleepy. It is as if the entire town packs up and leaves for sunnier destinations… Except something strange has occurred in the last three weeks to change this quiet little country town into the land of Pikachu seeking Zombies …. The "Pokemon Go" phenomenon.
Now honestly I do believe that anything that makes teenagers and sedentary children rise from the couch, leave the house and walk is a great idea. And Nintendo has done an outstanding job with Pokemon Go, forcing kids to earn points and capture creatures by simply moving. But I have also seen some really dangerous safety issues when people are playing, as well as insurance implications for property owners and cyber issues. So let me get the word out there as to what is occurring in our neighborhoods.
People Playing While Driving and the Implications:
I was driving down Grand Street in Warwick and I noticed a bright green KIA Sole with its hazard lights blinking, sticking out onto the shoulder of the road. I approached the driver to see if she needed assistance, and she giggled and told me that she was fine, she was just trying to capture “Meowth”. In addition to people texting, talking, Instagraming and Facebooking while driving, now they are hunting for creatures. Pedestrians need to be extra cautious crossing the street. Drivers need to be aware that people are gaming while behind the wheel of their cars.
Data Capture, Information Sharing, and Privacy:
Christie Alderman, Vice President of Chubb’s personal risk services, says parents and end users should be concerned about the amount of information apps are collecting and sharing with third parties because frequently it isn’t clear who these entities are or how the data collected will be used. “People should really be thinking about this,” she said. “They don’t have a sense of how the little bits of data they give away are being collected by data aggregators to create a more comprehensive picture of you.”* Any company that has a customer database wants to capture as store as much information on that client as possible. The information provided to Nintendo and the developer Niantic Labs about any customer that downloads Pokemon Go will be captured and stored for further marketing and development use. Survey questions, social media profiles, and geocoding of your area will all be compiled and kept by these companies. How comfortable do you feel about this information being saved about your children and their personal privacy?
Malicious, Malevolent Malware:
Due to the success of the game, copycat and fake versions of the application that contain devastating malware are appearing everywhere. Cyber-thieves will steal information stored in your phone and create havoc. Make sure you know what you are downloading before allowing access to your phone, tablet, or personal computer.
Don’t Go In There:
There have been multiple news reports of “Pokemon Go” users getting jumped; robbed and cell phones getting ripped off. People are wandering into “No Trespassing” Areas, private property, government buildings and cemeteries searching for creatures and police officers are receiving phone calls about security breaches. There have also been reports of homeowners approaching players with guns because they have feared that their homes where being burglarized.
Pokemon Go can be a really fun game. I have seen entire families enjoying nights out in Warwick, wandering the streets, carrying ice cream cones and sharing the excitement of capturing characters. But as with anything else, you need to stay safe and think before head out on your virtual adventure.
*Source Property/Casualty360 Magazine – 7/13/16.