Pokemon Sleep Highlights New Frontier of Privacy Threats

The latest Pokémon product, complete with commemorative Snorlaxes, was just announced: Pokémon Sleep will allow players to enjoy all the joys of playing the game — while they’re asleep.

It will include a device with an accelerometer that measures a player’s motions in sleep, generating data that interacts with their phone. The company hasn’t been clear about how the game will work but said it will help players track their sleep habits.

For some people, the first response to that was, reasonably, “How?” But the real question should be the “Why?”

Players may not realize this yet, but the proposed game is yet another example in the steady march to erode privacy rights. The more normalized these things become, the harder it can be to put them back in the box. This isn’t a problem for some people. But it is cause for deep concern among others who may feel like they must participate in programs and systems that collect an uncomfortable amount of data about them.

It’s 2019. We’re surrounded by “smart” products, and there’s an app for everything. Sleep apps in particular are exploding, with apps to track sleeping patterns, monitor insomnia, connect with CPAP machines and more. There are smart beds, too, along with a variety of connected elements for the home — including the watches and other devices people wear to bed, ostensibly to track their activity levels and generate sleep data.

These products say they’ll make your life better, courtesy of all the data you’re giving up. What they’re more coy about is how they use that data.

It’s not just crunched locally and shared with you. It enters their larger storage systems, where it will be used alongside other user data to improve experiences. But it can also be sold by third parties. For example, apnea apps may share data not just with insurance companies, but also with “partners” the user may not be aware of because they didn’t read closely enough.

Pokémon Go already collects and shares a great deal of data about users. Because people have to leave their phones on to play, the app knows where they are and which locations they frequent. It can tell when people arrive and how quickly they get there. User-initiated images can provide even more information about the setting, offering context clues and hints that add to the body of data the company is collecting. While Pokémon Go did encourage people to get out and walking, it also took advantage of a wealth of voluntary data.

If you want to track your sleep, there are a lot of noninvasive, primarily analog ways to do it. But if you really feel you need an app, do your research. Learn how and where your data may be shared, and take advantage of opt-outs and other security features. Know that even if you’re fine with it now, in the future you may change your mind. And it will already be too late to stop discrimination and inappropriate use of your data.

Photo credit: Lord Henri Voton/Getty Images

29 comments

Christine V
Christine V5 days ago

Insane!

SEND
Heather B
Heather B5 days ago

They have no interest in your well being, sleep, or entertainment. They are stealing information to generate more money for them. They will sell your data and then use it against you sometime down the road. Privacy is non-existent and it is time people wised up and demanded protection.

SEND
Leo C
Leo C5 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

SEND
Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer5 days ago

WHAT!!!!

SEND
Henry M
Henry M6 days ago

What king of person would want to play video games in their sleep? I wonder what the tech companies would do with data about sleep...

SEND
Veronica Danie
Veronica D6 days ago

Thank you so very much.

SEND
Veronica Danie
Veronica D6 days ago

Thank you so very much.

SEND
Veronica Danie
Veronica D6 days ago

Thank you so very much.

SEND
Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A6 days ago

Crazy. Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Mia B
Marta B6 days ago

Tyfs

SEND