A new Website with the tongue-in-cheek name “PleaseRobMe” seeks to highlight the potential danger of updating the world, via social networking sites, on your every move.
PleaseRobMe is really nothing more than a glorified Twitter search; it aggregates public Twitter feeds that use Foursquare, a social networking game, to announce when users have left their homes. The site reads like a Twitter feed with a sarcastic twist — each entry has “@username left home and checked in about a minute ago:” before each Tweet. The site is constantly updated with “new opportunities,” and you can filter the search results by location or Twitter username.
Foursquare is a game that allows users to “colonize” their city. It’s typically “played” on a phone, and requires that users “check in” whenever they reach a destination (by updating the world on their whereabouts, via the Foursquare Website) in order to earn points and badges. Other incentives to “check in” include being named “mayor” of a certain place if you frequent the place more than any other Foursquare users. The title of “mayor” often comes with freebies, such as hotel stays, drinks, or discounts.
Unfortunately, as PleaseRobMe points out, updating Foursquare on where you are implicitly updates Foursquare on where you’re not — at 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,” says the site.
The stated goal of the site is not really to promote burglaries, but rather to raise awareness about the dangers of over-sharing on public forums such as Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz, and Twitter.
While some may argue that it’s no big deal for people to know you’re not at home, since you’re not saying where your home is, PleaseRobMe points out that other friends might be trying to “colonize” your home via Foursquare. And, of course, considering a lot of social networking sites do not pay much attention to your privacy unless you explicitly set privacy settings, it’s very possible that your address is on the Internet somewhere.