Clive Palmer’s attempt at a technology-inspired political comeback has taken another turn for the worse. After the widely panned SMS campaign that bombarded inboxes, it now turns out the mobile game Palmer commissioned and released last year can not only mine data but there’s rules against him doing so. It’s an object lesson about why clicking ‘OK’ without paying attention isn’t very smart.
The Humble Meme Merchant game comes in both Android and iOS versions and was developed by Tom West from Emu War Games.
As far as I could tell, the iOS version didn’t ask for any permissions I was concerned about. It’s not listed as requesting Location Services or anything else I thought looked dodgy.
But the Android version asks for your location data and can’t be installed without it.
The problem isn’t the politics. It’s that the app wants your location even though it’s as necessary to the game as Sonic the Hedgehog needing access to your camera. And there’s a political loophole that makes it OK for Palmer, or any other politician who releases a game or app, to harvest that data and use it.
Oh – and it also gets access to the users’ identity that may include names and email addresses.
While the developer says that an updated version of the game is coming, it highlights the importance of paying attention to the permissions any app you install asks for. I’ve seen some scary demos of malicious programs, that look legitimate, and what sort of access they can get.
The big take home message is to pay attention to the permissions any app you install requests and make a decision about whether you’re happy with that access. If you can disable the access and still get the app or game to work then that’s a good outcome. But apps and games that don’t give you a choice don’t deserve a place on your smartphone or tablet.