Update: There’s an iOS update for the app out, resolving the Google-all-access coding problem. 7/12/2016 Noon PST. Schools and school administrators will still want to talk about the implications of having students use their own accounts to play this game, if they want to have it be a part of a school’s learning program, or in using school Google-based accounts. Those a entirely different and policy-based issued unrelated to this coding issue.
Since its launch this week, Pokémon Go has achieved a level of popularity on par with chocolate and bacon. In two days, users installed it on 5% of all Android devices in the US – so, yeah – on par with bacon (source). The app is free, with in-game purchases that make game-play easier, and is available on Android (here) and iOS (here).
With its launch, Pokémon Go required used to log in with either an existing Pokémon Trainer Club Account (here), or with a Google account. This has initially run into some problems – huge problems, for teachers and educators wanting to leverage the popularity and capabilities of Pokémon Go as a learning tool and opportunity. For Pokémon Go users playing with iOS devices, the Pokémon Go has initially been configured to require and use full access to their Google account. Full access – to see every file in their Google Drive, to be able to send and received emails, etc. (I first read about it, here.)
As my friend Bill Fitzgerald (here) said so well today, “To the EdTech “thought leaders” who say that providing full read/write access to your email and drive is “nothing to worry about”: really?” (source) and “I hope these folks didn’t have anything of value in any of their Google accounts.” (source)
For teachers and other educators wanted to use Pokémon Go, the good news is that Niantic has said this is an error, and they are going to fix it. Which is important – given that playing the game is going to require some kind of account – either a student personal account, or a school account – and with the current full-account-permissions settings, that would be a nightmare to try and push through any school administration or tech policy approval process, for sure.
“We recently discovered that the Pokémon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon 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 Pokémon Go or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon Go’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon Go needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves. (source)
Until Niantic gets this patch pushed through, though, it is an issue. Teachers and educators should be on the lookout for word that this has come through.
What to do in the meantime, if you or students / kids you know are going to be using an iOS device to play Pokémon Go? Or have been, and did not realize – before today, when this news before – that this was an issue? It’s easy – create a new, clean, dummy account in Google, just for use in playing Pokémon Go, and then go revoke Pokémon Go’s access to the account you had been using.
Creating a new account in Google is fairly straight forward. You can do it from the Gmail homepage. The process doesn’t ask for much information.
After you have done that, and on a device on which you are logged into Google with the account you had previously been playing Pokémon Go, go to this page and revoke Pokémon Go’s access to the Google account in question. It’s pretty straight forward. With that, you’ll have made a nice and clean break. You’ll also have to start all over again – and that’s ok, because you can do the Pikachu trick this time around (it really does work!)