Lots of people don’t think twice before advertising where they are, or where they’re going, on Twitter or Facebook.
“Dinner’s only half made, but I’m rushing to pick up my kid from soccer.”
“Leaving home and heading to a client meeting at Pete’s Bistro.”
“Outa here for a weekend on the ski slopes.”
If that describes you, and you also use the FourSquare app on your phone, don’t be surprised if your smiling face and your next tweet show up on PleaseRobMe.com, a site that mocks people who broadcast to the world when they’re leaving home and where they’re going.
Here’s how it works. People download the FourSquare app to their phone and create a profile. You can invite friends from your Gmail, Facebook or Twitter accounts. You then use FourSquare to “check-in.” When you tell people where you are, FourSquare tells your friends where they can find you and recommends places to go and things to do nearby.
The problem occurs when you tell FourSquare to automatically broadcast your whereabouts to your Twitter and Facebook followers. As soon as somebody checks in, their tweet or message shows up on a scrolling list on PleaseRobMe.com’s home page. Dozens of new messages appear each minute.
Thieves can use the information on PleaseRobMe.com several ways. They can set up a filter and search by username or city. Both Twitter and FourSquare note when you have marked your location. That gives thieves an idea of about how long you’ll be away from home.
“The danger is publicly telling people where you are,” says PleaseRobMe. “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.”
Social Media Rx, the social media assessment I created with my business partner, Jeanne Hurlbert, through our company, MySocialMediaSolution.com, warns people about sharing information about when their homes are unoccupied. The assessment is a series of multiple-choice questions designed to test the user’s knowledge of social media. The report it generates gives each user a customized formula that guides them on what to discuss at social media sites. And it offers hundreds of other helpful suggestions about social media protocol, tips and tools, including advice about safety.
Here’s what our report says about advertising when you’re going on vacation:
Sites like Twitter, where some people bare all, could be a criminal’s best friend. Some people love sharing details of their vacations and other out-of-town trips with their social media friends. But not us. We think it’s smart to never let people know when we’re leaving a house or office that will be unoccupied.
What about you? Do you use FourSquare with Twitter or Facebook, and if so, do you restrict the types of messages you broadcast to the world?
What about PleaseRobMe.com? Do you think the site is a public service because it underscores the safety problem? Or does it give burglars one more tool? Do you think most of the people who show up on that site have any idea that they’re there?