The App That’s Selling You

I just spent weekly in lovely Costa Rica. My family and I swam, sailed, snorkeled, communed with wildlife and parasailed high over the Pacific Ocean.

We didn’t use whatever Pokémon. That’s because, unlike most of the rest of humanity, we weren’t trying to find any while using the app that’s taken the planet by storm: Pokémon Go.

Surprisingly, my preteen daughter didn’t resist our Pokémon-free existence. To my great satisfaction, she usually enjoy more cerebral pursuits… mostly.

But whether or not she’d begged me, I’d have refused to cave in. No Pokémon Go for us. That’s because I don’t fancy turning my children into tradable data points… and neither in case you.

Unfortunately, Pokémon Go could be the least of the worries this is because…

Pokémon Go: The Product Is YOU

Old-timers as i am remember actually spending money on software. Remember upgrading completely to another version of Windows or Microsoft Office each year or so? In those days, getting complex applications free of charge, like those accessible for today’s smartphones, was unthinkable.

That’s because, up to about 5yrs ago, the application itself was this product from which developers made their profit. It was the same as selling cars, refrigerators or another complex manufactured product.

No more. I still pay a nominal fee yearly to “subscribe” to updates of some software products, but a majority of that I use daily come totally free.

It’s not too they’re cheap to formulate – quite the contrary. Today’s software program is orders of magnitude more difficult and powerful compared to stuff in which we utilized to pay large sums of money.

That’s because today’s software isn’t revenue-generating section of the business model. It’s not what is important being sold for profit.

You are.

Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts

Over the recent past, I’ve warned repeatedly that hacking is only one portion of the digital-age threat. Less obvious – and much more insidious – may be the process in which you are became a commodity being traded for profit with the companies whose products you utilize.

The best-known examples are big online outfits like Google and internet sites like Facebook. Both provide their user-facing services free of charge. Both, however, spend the vast majority of their efforts this is not on improving those services, but on harvesting information regarding you which can be sold to your highest bidder.

My favorite example will be the poor fellow who searched Google for “pancreatic cancer” and started seeing online ads for funeral homes. Another could be the father who received a mailer from some company with all the words “DAUGHTER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT” printed about the envelope. Some idiot had misconfigured the marketing algorithm, as well as the targeting criteria were being printed on countless mailers.

Google and Facebook (or anything else) begun making money by selling microtargeted online ads to third parties like those funeral homes. But they quickly found out that they could make a lot more money by selling the details that advertisers use to accomplish this microtargeting. Precise figures are difficult to find, but provided that marketing companies report 200% to 300% increases in revenue using such data, it’s reliable advice that the big data harvesters are coining it by selling that you them.

Pokémon Go takes this place step further. It doesn’t get adverts in any way. To the user, it seems like completely ad-free. But advertisers it’s still paying so that those users… inside a much more dangerous way.

Boldly Going Where No App Has Gone Before

Pokémon Go may be downloaded 20 million times within the U.S. It’s just rolled out in Asia and Europe. Nintendo’s stock price has soared by in excess of 50% into two weeks. Pokémon Go has overtaken Twitter in daily active users and is also even closing in on Facebook.

While the app cost nothing, users could make in-app purchases like lures to get Pokémon for a location or “cages” to ensure they are in. However, the experience is about to unleash essentially the most potent advertising campaigns in digital history… simply by selling frighteningly detailed info on its users.

For example, the app has decided to offer “sponsored locations” to paying partners. Geotargeting and geofencing technology lets advertisers to a target specific buildings and match that to signals from cellular devices. Advertisers know exactly where you might be and serve ads according to your precise location – much like that infamous shopping-mall scene from Minority Report.

By paying Pokémon Go’s developers a huge fee, a brandname like McDonald’s (whose logo has now been spotted in Pokémon Go’s code) should be able to turn its stores into desirable locations within the Pokémon virtual universe. That will draw players to people locations, where they are tempted to buy stuff “IRL” – in person. Advertisers are going to be charged with a “cost per visit” basis, similar for the “cost per click” Google charges advertisers.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

Initial reports that Pokémon Go harvests detailed Google account information, such as contents of emails, appear to have been incorrect.

But the app’s owners don’t require that stuff. They’re going for something bigger. They want to know your location by any means times to enable them to sell that information on the highest bidder.