I’m Not Home, Please Rob Me

I’m Not Home, Please Rob Me

I’m Not Home, Please Rob Me

I'm Not Home, Please Rob Me

I’m Not Home, Please Rob Me

Even after the myriad of privacy disasters surrounding social networking sites like Facebook and Google Buzz, people are still posting a large number of personal data, sometimes intentionally. Most smart phones such as the iPhone or Google Nexus One have GPS features where mobile phone application developers can use to add to track your current location. For example, if you use the official Flickr iPhone application, when uploading a picture you can tag the GPS coordinates of your current location to tag the picture with. A whole crop of geolocation services have sprouted around the concept of checking into a venue near your physical location.

For example, when out having lunch with friends you can check in with the Foursquare iPhone application. Based on your current location, Foursquare will provide a list of stores, venues, or other points of interest near you. Once you check in to a certain location often enough you can become mayor of that location, you can also earn badges for the amount of checks, such as the explorer badge for checking into 25 unique locations. Gowalla is another geolocation service similar to Foursquare. The mobile web application for Google Buzz also has a feature to show you buzz posts near your current location.
All these geolocation services work in conjunction with other social network services like Twitter and Facebook so that you can share with your friends and followers your whereabouts. As one can quickly realize, these are perfect tools for not only virtual followers but for real life stalkers. If you consistently post the location and tweet about what you are doing throughout your day, you can inadvertently map out your daily routine.

I for one have notice the trend and possible dangers of location-aware mobile applications and services. But I am not the only one that has noticed. Please Rob Me (http://pleaserobme.com) is a website that searches on Twitter for those individuals that have checked in at a location other than their homes. Please Rob Me allows you to search by location or Twitter user name so that you can track the movements of friends and neighbors. The website’s bold and humorous name is an in your face comment on our changing attitudes towards privacy. Please Rob Me does not actually encourage burglaries, it is a website of caution against posting so much personal and private information and location data about ourselves and our whereabouts.

Online Privacy is not dead, yet, but sites like Foursquare, Gowalla and Google Buzz pushes the envelop for use to publish sensitive information. Google uses browser cookies to track our searches, the IP address are logged when we surf online, but perhaps the most grievous privacy mistakes are done by us end users when we give so much information about ourselves to untested and untrusted third-party application and services. The worst part is that we not only give them our personal information, current location, our social graph, but that we also grant them exclusive rights to use such data in whatever fashion they deem necessary. These services, could turn around and sell our information to advertisers, identity collectors, and spammers. I by no means think that Foursquare, Gowalla, or Google Buzz are actively looking as a business model into selling our privacy to third-party companies, but I don’t doubt that it will happen in a not so distant future, whether inadvertently or not.

Kathy Moreno

Home Decor

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