One of my colleagues begrudgingly joined the social media world this week. She resisted Twitter, Facebook, etc for as long as possible, and I can certainly understand why, despite the benefits of being connected. Consider the new website -- PleaseRobMe.com.
The satirical Dutch site is trying to send a message about all of the information people share online. It posts Tweets from people who are giving their whereabouts. The point being, that if you tell the world you're not at home, you're sending them an invitation to break into your house. It's actually happened, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out:
The dangers are real. In October, police in Los Angeles arrested what was called the Bling Ring, a band of teenagers that broke into the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom and others, making off with more than a million dollars in loot.
"The group used social-networking sites and celebrity Web sites extensively" to track their victims' whereabouts...
PleaseRobMe is a direct attack on sites like Foursquare and Brightkite. They basically turn city maps into game boards, encouraging people to go out and meet up, and awarding prizes for the most active users. Foursquare's response:
True, a large number of foursquare users send their checkins to Twitter and/or Facebook, and therefore make their location available to an audience much larger than just their foursquare friends. (I'm guilty of this too - I have some 100 foursquare friends in NY, though routinely send my checkins to my few thousand Twitter followers). The benefits are obvious ("if more people know where I am, my chances of meeting up with people increase!") though it is interesting to see people talking about the potential downsides...
Anyway, we definitely "get" the larger issue here - location is sensitive data and people should be careful about with whom and when they share it. And at foursquare, we do everything we can to make sure that our users know with what people and social sites they are sharing their location with.
PleaseRobMe says it's not trying to get people burgled, just making the point that everyone can see the information on Twitter.
The director of the Privacy International campaign says thanks, but no thanks, for the warning:
"It is completely and totally irresponsible," he told The Daily Telegraph.
"They have raised a poignant and important issue about what people disclose on the internet but they could have done this so much better. They could have left out the details of people's addresses.
"What they have actually achieved is providing a one-stop-shop for burglars rather than achieve their goals, which are to raise awareness."
It never ceases to amaze me the issues being raised by social media. Remember phone booths and answering machines?
But how connected are you now? And how careful are you with sharing information?