Please Rob Me, I just left my house…

This entry was posted by Rob on Thursday, 18 February, 2010 at

I have most of the major social networking pages somewhere, not that I still use all of them. I have still, or have in the past used MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Buzz, Digg, Technorati and probably a bunch more if I felt like checking all of my internet book marks.

To tell you the truth, it takes up way too much time trying to “stay connected”. But there are even apps that tie 2 or more of these sites together, which I suppose makes keeping up with friends, followers, and stalkers much easier. That way you can tweet a message and it automatically posts to your Facebook. Or you can status your Facebook and it will tweet it too. Hopefully you don’t have it set up to FB to Twitter that tweets back to FB which goes back to Twitter in an endless loop of insignificant social babble…

One of the latest Facebook/Twitter fads is called geolocation. Which is when you can download an app to your smart phone that grabs your precise physical location and tweet or status that spot to all of your friends. I have a Facebook buddy that does this all the time. He is always letting us know what restaurant he is waiting in line at, or other event he is hobnobbing around.

A while back, when he first started doing that, I thought, “Hrrm, “Ted” isn’t at home and he just told the world… and if you wait an hour or two, he’ll probably let you know when he is heading back.” Sure enough he did. Perfect time to rob his house, if you were into that sort of thing.

Usually your Facebook account is only full of your nearest and dearest friends, not 100s of casual acquaintances, and people you hardly know but sent to a friend request, right? …RIGHT?

What about those college kids that friend everyone on campus? Probably not the best course of action. You know how those mature co-eds act.

How likely would it be for some loser college “friend” to ransack your dorm room when they just saw your tweet that you and your roommate just took off for the long weekend?

Worse yet, leave it to some techno-nerd to one up the whole geolocation snooping. There is actually a website called Please Rob Me dot com. This site will filter out all the “I’m taking a shower” and motivational quote spam on Twitter and just get down to the nitty gritty. It takes all the real-time geolocationing info and displays them in a one-stop-shop list. Here is a snippet of the results from last night:

Listing all those empty homes out there

Recent Empty Homes

@HolzJS left home and checked in about a minute ago: I’m at Celebration Town Tavern (721 Front Street, Sycamore Street, Celebration). http://4sq.com/8BCs0A

@amisij left home and checked in about a minute ago: I’m at Kirkhof Center (GVSU, Allendale) w/ 2 others. http://4sq.com/6Xvr8B

@jacobkampen left home and checked in about a minute ago: Woot! #fb (@ Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) w/ 2 others) http://4sq.com/31ZCjK

@argonman left home and checked in about a minute ago: I’m at Edwards movie theater. http://4sq.com/bHeIQr

And of course there is a search box if you have a specific target in mind, perfect for selecting a burglary target, or narrowing down your night’s stalking route.

From their home page, you can click on the WHY link and get their reasoning for creating this site, which states their goal is to raise some awareness on the potentially dangerous issue of willy nilly geolocation spamming and have people think twice about how they use those services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc.

The danger is when you get in the habit of publicly telling strangers where you are, and consequently where you are not… which is 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.”

They also state their “intention is not, and never has been, to have people burglarized.” But it should make you wonder. Who is keeping tabs on you, especially when you are so freely giving out boatloads of personal information, intentionally or unintentionally.

Take a piece here, take a tweet there, read a couple social profiles, and then use Google. You’d be surprised how much info you can find on someone. I hope you have some sort of home security or a dog (real or fake) keeping an eye on things at the homstead.

I’m just waiting on the following:

@geotweeter is at the new restaurant, long wait to be seated, I may be here awhile.

@geoburglar is at @geotweeter’s house. Wonder if he’ll get back in time before I clean it out…

Be Safe, Be Prepared. Keep your geo tweets to yourself.

Related Posts:
Infidelity and Facebook Cheating
Burglar Smacked Silly with a Shovel
Another burglar drops his cell phone

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4 Responses to “Please Rob Me, I just left my house…”

  1. Sometimes you just got to wonder what the hell people are thinking.

  2. Rob, Sheila,
    I think a lot of people don’t think seriously about what they read online, and much of the discussion around Please Rob Me seems to be a good example. I’ve been on the Internet since 1982. I’ve been on Twitter since 2006 and have been using sites like Brightkite, Foursquare and other sites to update my location for a long time.

    The first, incorrect assumption that people make is that when someone sends out a message that they are not at home is that this means no one is at home or watching the house. Pretty much every time I have sent a message about not being home, there has been someone at my home. In addition, sending a message that I’m not at my house also informs my neighbors to keep an eye on my house. I would actually argue that often messages about being away from home make a home safer than it would be otherwise.

    Finally, Rob missed the last tweet in the sequence

    @geodad @geotweeter, @geosheperd took down @geoburglar before I had a chance to leave the shooting range in your backyard.

  3. Rob

    I am betting the the far, far majority of people do not have other tweeter neighbors paying attention to their statuses and then watching their house when they geo tweet and are out. Maybe 2% if you are lucky.

    And as a side, it the guy tweets he is gone to a restaurant, he probably took the wife, and a home invader would rather confront the kids or lady of the house any day rather than the guy on the rare occasion that the house isn’t totally empty. Again except for the 2% of the time that the woman may be a NRA card carrying gun owner.

    All in all, it’s never a good idea to advertise exactly when you are leaving you house, exactly where you are going, and effectively when you will expect be back. Pull the welcome mat back, don’t wave the burglars in.

    Sure this geo tweeting burglary is a pretty far stretch, but you never know which bad guy decides to pounce on that silver-plattered invitation. Tweet or no tweet, totally empty house or not.

  4. Its rather ironic that you wrote this post as your site tends to remind me of the show “To Catch A Thief.” I would imagine posting ones status on Facebook would be a homerobbers dream, especially with all the vaca stuff, and when you stop to think about the many people who post their REAL status of FB (among others) its really rather scary. I imagine some of these folks will end up on a newer, more “real” version of “to Catch a Thief.” Needless to say I am reconsidering my home security options…..


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