Muslim cleric slams Pokémon GO for 'infatuating' youth

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Muslim cleric slams Pokémon GO for infatuating youth
Pokemon GO is becoming larger than life for many users

Dubai - UAE TRA says that while virtual reality offers many beneficial advantages, it could also have negative repercussions if not used with caution

By Staff Reporter

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Published: Sat 16 Jul 2016, 9:17 PM

Smart mobile and device users playing online electronic games that request geographic location data, have been warned by the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) that it could be used against them for criminal activities.
The warning comes in the wake of the growing popularity of online games - especially Pokémon GO, of late - which invades users' privacy and allows hackers or criminal elements to spy on and know their whereabouts, giving rise to the possibilities of players being robbed or even put at the risk of further harm.
According to TRA, these games utilise augmented reality, and the player experience 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.
"Some of these virtual reality games use geo-positioning technology to track the users' locations, and tap into their smartphone cameras, making their privacy open to predators. The TRA warns all smart mobile and device users against using these applications in sensitive, private places, to ensure that their privacy and safety is secure," said Eng Mohamed Al Zarooni, Director of Policy and Programs Department, TRA.

The mobile game craze Pokémon GO has come under fire from a top Muslim cleric, who described it as a "trick to infatuate not only youngsters, but grownups as well."
Dr Abbas Shoman, of Al-Azhar University, an Islamic learning authority, said, "Children and youth have found their desire in these electronic pastimes, but the games make them ignore their studies, to which their future careers and businesses are attached."
He stated that games like Pokémon GO made people look like they were swaying drunk in the streets, while engrossed on their mobile phones. "It's one thing for kids to be deceived by this game. but where have the grownups' minds gone? They could be knocked down by a moving car due to their inattentiveness on the road," he said.
"Are we going to see people enter mosques, churches, prisons and military units searching for missing Pokémon? Would people abandon their work and business to search for Pokémon? Or will they use their common sense and ignore, once and for all, this nonsense?" Dr Shoman said.
'Use caution while gaming'
Games such as the new Pokémon GO can result in people falling victim to criminal software, phishing software and malware that clones games. The TRA also warned against illegally downloading these games, before they are made available on official app stores. Illegal software and apps can damage smartphone operating systems, or be used for spying on its users.
Adel Al Muhairi, Manager of the National Computer Emergency Response Team, TRA, said: "The engrossing nature of such games could possibly lead users to unknown places where unlawful elements could be waiting for them. These games could also cause injury if used while driving or walking. While virtual reality technology offers many beneficial features and advantages, it could also have negative repercussions if not used with caution." He also asked users to avoid using the camera feature for these games, especially within the home.
Al Muhairi also called on parents to join their children in discovering new tech games, in order to learn more about these and evaluate their dangers, and decide which ones are age appropriate.
Some of these virtual reality games are not yet available on official app stores in the UAE. The TRA is currently researching all the related effects and dangers of these games and applications, as incidents have been reported from around the world about robberies and other crimical activities being enabled by these games' geo-tracking features.

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