Location-Based Services: Invitation to Burglars?
Twitter, Brightkite, Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook and Google Buzz are all the rage, allowing users to keep their adoring fans, or at least their mother informed of their latest position and activities. A new site has popped up, highlighting the dangers of being so informative. Please Rob Me is taking updates directly from foursquare and is doing this to highlight the dangers inherent in letting everyone and his dog know exactly where you are at any given time.
Here is the website’s why:
“Hey, do you have a Twitter account? Have you ever noticed those messages in which people tell you where they are? Pretty annoying, eh. Well, they’re actually also potentially pretty dangerous. We’re about to tell you why.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the whole location-aware thing. The information is very interesting and can be used to create some pretty awesome applications. However, the way in which people are stimulated to participate in sharing this information, is less awesome. Services like Foresquare allow you to fulfill some primeval urge to colonize the planet. A part of that is letting everyone know you own that specific spot. You get to tell where you are and if you’re there first, it’s yours. O, and of course there’s badges..
The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home. It gets even worse if you have “friends” who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That’s right, slap them across the face.
The goal of this website is to raise some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc. Because all this site is, is a dressed up Twitter search page. Everybody can get this information.”
Suddenly it doesn’t seem like a great idea to be broadcasting the fact you have vacated your house. At least one possible Twitter-enabled robbery has been reported on when a holidaying video podcaster’s house was burglarized last year in Mesa Arizona. While many commenters don’t feel that the criminal element is smart enough to make this connection, the economic downturn is now creating desperate times and resulting in desperate measures for everyone. An unoccupied home stashed with a treasure trove of pawn-worthy electronic goodies can present quite a temptation to someone who has not had a paycheque since Michael Jackson was busting out his moon walk.
Anyone with kids in the digital age has already thought through the potential dangers of having their family or home targetted for nefarious purposes. Children, teens and adults really should scale back the specific nature of their tweets, posts and updates. Best possible scenario is to report on holidays and away from home activities after you have returned. Don’t be posting your macarena lessons in real time….wait til you have returned to your disco palace to wow your followers with your amazing moves!