Please rob me: when social networking turns risky


As social networking becomes more and more ingrained in people’s lives, many incautious, naive, or new users may be inadvertently heightening their risk of becoming a crime victim.
A site called PleaseRobMe.com graphically illustrates this point by highlighting recent tweets in which Twitter users are telling followers where they can be found. The site is simply aggregating public information that is available to anyone – you, me … and crooks. As the site founder notes,

“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.”

The goal of the site is to raise awareness of the potential dangers of location sharing and to make people think twice about the way they are using various social tools such as Twitter, Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz, and Facebook.
Last June, we posted Careful what you Tweet – crooks could be using social networks, too, about the highly publicized case of an active social networker who Twittered about his trip only to return home to find that his home had been burglarized while he was away. While the dangers of the Internet can sometimes be overly dramatized in the media, raising awareness of how social media tools are used is a worthy goal. It’s a new era of heightened transparency and we all need to learn to step with care.