Posted March 11, 2010 10:32 am by with 3 comments

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I know that what I am about to say is not original but it really struck me that as Twitter announces that it is offering location based information on its site there is so little reported about the potential issues this may create.

I think it struck me because the Twitter site is usually the last place where the cool ideas are implemented. Location based mobile apps for Twitter are nothing new and with the increasing popularity of foursquare and others this craze seems to have some serious legs. This is all the more evident if the Twitter site is climbing on board.

Mashable reports on Twitter’s efforts with the following picture and quote which pretty much tells the story.

It’s a simple integration: with any tweet that has a location attached to it (mostly via apps that support it, such as Foursquare and Tweetie), a small location icon will appear at the end of the byline of that tweet. Clicking on it will bring up a Google Map showing the location where that tweet was sent.

I am admittedly not a fan of this kind of service but that means nothing because a lot of people are. The people who I think may be most enamored with this trend are those people who want to know where someone IS NOT rather than where they are. You know those folks that like to come by your place when it’s empty or less protected because of your absence.? Those nice people who like to take your belongings? You know them as burglars, thieves, robbers, home invaders etc etc.

As I started to look into this a little more and back in February ran a story (video here and it’s pretty interesting) about a web site developed to make the point that maybe a little restraint may be a good thing in this quest to tell everyone when you are not at your home. The site is called Please Rob Me

As more people reveal their whereabouts on social networks, a new site has sprung up to remind you that letting everyone know where you are — and, by extension, where you’re not — could leave you vulnerable to those with less-than-friendly intentions. The site’s name says it all: Please Rob Me.

Launched last week, Please Rob Me is exceptionally straightforward. Pretty much all it does is show posts that appear on Twitter from a location-sharing service, Foursquare. Please Rob Me puts these posts into a long, chronological list it refers to as “Recent Empty Homes.”

Please Rob Me assembles its list by taking information that Twitter makes freely available so that many Web sites can show tweets. But the point of Please Rob Me could be made with data that flows on dozens of other sites as well.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s “Hey, look where I am now!” parade. If someone wants to do this kind of thing, that’s fine. As of today, we live in a free country. But when a law professor from UC Hastings, Robin Feldman, finishes her explanation as to why a site like Please Rob me will not likely be considered an accessory to any crimes by saying

The victims to an extent are fools. They are publishing their information and they should be thinking about it.

I just had to wonder. What are your thoughts on this one? Is telling everyone where you are at all times always a good thing?

  • Yeah, this feature opens people up to that possibility, but it’s really not that simple—and highly unlikely.

    B&E and theft are generally crimes with little, if any, premeditation. To make Twitter a viable criminal tool, you have to a.) find someone close enough to you, b.) make sure they have something worth taking, c.) figure out exactly where they live, d.) figure out whether you can defeat their security system, if any, and e.) watch their Twitter stream until they (and all other members of their household) leave. Can you do all that from a Twitter stream? Perhaps—but that crime is more about targeting a person than stealing stuff for fun and profit.

    If you really want to steal something, it’s about a 1000% easier to park on a well-to-do street and wait for people to go to work or go out for the night, or to go to the parking lot of an apartment complex.

    Stalking is probably a greater danger here.

  • Dean

    Security reasons aside, I really don’t give a rat’s ass that you’re at the hardware store, let alone the “Mayor”. I’m trying really hard to understand, but this need to share every aspect of one’s life stupefies me. Can any 4Square enthusiasts enlighten me? Oh and make sure you tell me where you are when you respond, because, like, that’s really important for me to know.

  • I was suspect of foursquare… until I tried it. I like it just because I can see what other people have said about a restaurant. I usually try to add a little comment on any foursquare post I make. Otherwise, it does seem a little superfluous.

    Ya know who isn’t on foursquare? My pit bull bitch who is hungry because my house sitters haven’t thrown today’s raw meat under the door.

    If you rob houses purely based on twitter posts you deserve whatever you get.
    .-= Sage Lewis´s last blog ..SEM News – Dear Leader Wants Your Link Spam – March 8, 2010 =-.