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TRA issues warning against mobile online games that request geographical location of users

posted on 16/07/2016: 1761 views



The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has warned all smart mobile and device users about playing online electronic games that request their geographical locations, which could be used against them for criminal activities.

The warning was issued in the light of the growing popularity of online games, especially Pokemon Go, which invades the privacy of users and allowing criminal elements like hackers to spy on them and know when they are in isolated places--giving them the opportunity to rob them of their possessions or cause further harm.

According to the TRA, these games utilise virtual reality technologies to give users the capability to add virtual images on their smart phones. As such, the augmented reality captured on the screen becomes a mixture of real life integrated with elements of virtual reality. This technology is being used in different areas, entertainment, games, engineering, health and education.

TRA explained that using these virtual-reality games with geo-positioning technology, such as the new Pokemon Go game does, can result in the invasion of user privacy, as well as being victim to criminal software, phishing software and malware that clones games. The TRA also warned against the illegal download of these games, even before they are made available in official application stores. These illegal software and applications can cause damage to the operating system of smart phones, or be used for spying on its users.

It called on all game fans to wait until the game applications are officially available across official application stores.

Eng. Mohamed Al Zarooni, TRA Director of Policy and Programmes Department, said, "Some of these virtual reality games depend on new geo-positioning technology to track the locations of users and tap into their smart phone cameras, which makes the privacy of users open to predators. The TRA is warning all smart mobile and device users against using these applications in sensitive private places to ensure that their privacy and safety is secure."

He noted that virtual reality games can be entertaining and educational if they are used in the proper way as they can be used to visit, learn and discover new places.

Adel Al Muhairi, Manager, National Computer Emergency Response Team, TRA, stated, "The engrossment of game users into these games could possibly lead them to unknown places where unlawful criminals could be waiting for them. These games could also cause injury if used while driving or walking. The proper use of virtual reality technology offers many beneficial features and advantages, yet, if it is not used correctly, it could have negative repercussions."

He called on parents to join their children in discovering these new tech games to learn more about them so they can evaluate the dangers. He also asked to avoid using the camera options for these games, especially while at home. He encouraged parents to decide on what games are appropriate for the age groups of their children.

The TRA has also cautioned that some of these virtual-reality games have still not reached official application stores in the UAE. The TRA is currently studying all related effects, dangers, exploitations on society, when it comes to these games and applications.

Recent news from around the world have reported about a number of armed robberies carried out because of the geo-positioning features in these games. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395297793933.html

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