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Please Rob Me

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

A new website PleaseRobMe.com aggregates publicly shared updates to showcase the dangerous side effects of location-sharing via social media.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the Twitchhiker, a man who tweeted his way around the world and made it all the way from the United Kingdom to New Zealand.  In that post I noted that "I’m quite surprised nobody has stolen all of Mr. Smiths’ belongings – after all, the entire whole world knows his name, his home town and that he is most certainly not at his flat this month."

Now, the site PleaseRobMe.com has taken that idea to it's logical, if scary conclusion. This site is a stream of updates from various location-based networks (Foursquare and Twitter making up most of the data) that show when users check-in somewhere that is not their home. The idea, of course, is that if they’re not home, you can go rob them.

Check out these examples from the home page of PleaseRobMe:

Now the creators of this site say that "Our intention is not, and never has been, to have people burgled." but instead they say "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." This might sound far fetched - but there are some examples. Video podcaster Israel Hyman was robbed after tweeting that he was out was out town and Michael Fraser, a “reformed burglar” working for the BBC  callsthese social media sites “Internet shopping for burglars.”

With all the publicity that PleaseRobMe has been getting, the builders of this site (Forthehack - a business based in the Nehterlands) reports that tare "thinking about how we want to continue pleaserobme.com. It has received a lot of attention."  They want to offer this website to a professional foundation, agency or company that focuses on raising awareness, helping people understand and provide answers to online privacy related issues.

We'll see if anybody steps up to take over this site.  For now, think about practicing safe location sharing.

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