What Pokemon Go Has Taught Us About FOMO And Security

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Wow! Pokemon is back, and how! Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, whether you’re playing or not, Pokemon has entered your life again. But the bigger news around this latest craze has actually been the security and privacy flaws uncovered.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time, nor the last time, these types of issues will happen. What’s perhaps different this time around is that Pokemon Go’s massive success has highlighted systemic issues and questionable practices of mobile app developers.

Since the emergence of the internet 25 years ago and social media a decade ago, the concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) has become more and more prevalent. Just think about it…

  • Have an important personal milestone happen? It didn’t happen if it isn’t Facebook official. (No really.)
  • News coverage, for the most part, has shifted from getting the story right, to getting the story first.
  • Start-ups launch products and apps before they are ready in order to be first to market.

These are just a few examples and there are plenty more where those came from.

But what the Pokemon Go permissions issue really brings to light are a generational shift and a general lack of understanding or concern of what it means to click through the permissions and terms of service dialogue boxes when hurrying to install the next cool thing.

The Generational Shift

A recent study shows that the majority of people don’t bother to read the terms of service or privacy policies before signing up for mobile apps (the study has people unknowingly giving away their first born children!). They simply select “agree” and move on with the game, app or activity they were focused on in the first place.

This is dangerous. But why do people do it? Is it a question of not understanding the policies or simply not caring?

I believe it is both.

The Systemic Problem

But the issue can’t be entirely attributed to a generational shift of apathy. There is a systemic problem on the developer side.

According to the most recently available numbers, there are at least 2.2 million mobile apps out there. While there is a ton of variety out there -- from games and entertainment to education and news -- developers are still racing against the clock.

They are trying to get to market before their competitors so they don’t take the time to review and really think about what permissions they truly need to make the app work the way it needs to work.

Did Pokemon Go need access to my Gmail? Probably not.

The internet is a beautiful thing. But we all need to take a beat every so often and think about our actions. Does my app need all of those permissions? Do I as a consumer really know what I’m giving others access to? Is it more important to be first than right, be part of the trend rather than be safe?

Maybe it is a moot point and that the generational shift has cemented itself. But it is still worth asking the questions.