The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has alerted consumers to exercise caution while using apps like Pokémon Go that use location services and personal data.
The warning comes in the backdrop of players venturing into dangerous and prohibited places in their quest to capture the virtual creatures in the wildly popular Pokémon Go, a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game.
In a statement, the CRA said it has observed media reports, social media comments, and stray incidents where safety and privacy of individuals and businesses may have been compromised while using augmented reality apps that use geolocation services. There have been even reports of motorists playing the game while driving, endangering their lives as well as others.
“In this regard, CRA would like to alert all citizens and residents in Qatar to exercise caution while using apps like Pokémon Go, Geocaching, Waze, etc. Pokémon Go app, although not available officially in Qatar, uses mapping software to create a virtual reality game, and allows users to ‘catch’ the game characters on smartphone screens at various physical locations,” the statement said.
Counseling consumers to keep safety first and foremost on their mind while using apps like Pokémon Go, the CRA has provided the following advice: “Stay alert, stay safe: The safety of the users, especially children, is of utmost importance and it must be ensured that virtual reality combined with outdoor locations entails exercising same precautions as you would in any other outdoor setting. The app urges users to be aware of their surroundings while walking around in public. And, if you use the app while driving, you are putting your and others’ lives in danger. So ensure that you don’t play while driving and obey all traffic laws.
To save consumers from charges like trespass and encroachment, the CRA has cautioned them to be aware of privacy issues. "The app accesses other applications in your smartphone – location services, camera, etc. Be careful when sharing your locations details with strangers through the app. Besides, be aware that although the app features ‘PokeStops’ on public or private properties, you should be respectful of others’ privacy as unauthorised entry to private property or official buildings/areas may be considered trespassing. It is safer if you don’t go to unknown areas."
Consumers have been also advised to have a good understanding of their data plan and monitor their usage. "The app works with GPS, which means it may use a lot of data. Be aware of your data plan, and if unsure, check with your service provider to avoid bill shocks.”
The CRA noted that it took its consumer protection mandate “very seriously.”
“We will continue to engage with relevant external authorities and service providers to increase customer benefits while safeguarding their rights,” the statement added.
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