PleaseRobMe Hits Foursquare Users with a Dose of Reality

Foursquare Responds With Privacy Philosophy

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Update: Fousquare has issued a respons to the attention PleaseRobMe has brought to potential privacy issues associated with location sharing. What it boils down to is that Foursquare "takes privacy seriously" and it’s "really a bigger question about the pros and cons of location sharing in general". Read the company’s entire response here.

Original Article: Yesterday at about 2pm PleaseRobMe went live. PleaseRobMe is a site set up by a few developers who want to spread awareness about how easy it would be for people to rob your home if you share too much information about yourself online, specifically your location…even more specifically through Foursquare. The site displays a list of messages asking people if they know the whole world has access to their location. All of these are drawn directly from the PleaseRobMe Twitter account.

We asked Boy Van Amstel, one of those developers if they were concerned that followers of PleaseRobMe’s Twitter account could actually be interested in robbing people. Van Amstel responded, "With just the information [from] pleaserobme.com it would be almost impossible to do so. However as people share more information about themselves, such as their home address, it might become a possibility. We think it’s important to think about that and what it means if you share location information on services like Twitter…it’s very easy to get it, even directly from Twitter’s search page."


So far, Van Amstel says Foursquare is the only service it watches to determine who is sharing their location with the world. "It’s not about the service, it’s about the information that’s being shared. We think it’s important to realize that something you post on Twitter isn’t necessarily private. Everybody is able to read it, unless you protect your messages."

One can only assume that FourSquare isn’t entirely pleased with the launch of PleaseRobMe. That’s the second time the service has had a not-so-positive light cast upon it this week. Earlier in the week, there were reports of Foursquare cheating. This could have an effect on the decisions of businesses to give Foursquare users special offers, a practice that is becoming more commonplace.

Regardless, PleaseRobMe bluntly delivers an important reminder to socially active people that just because they’re using the “virtual” world, that doesn’t mean it can’t potentially have real-world consequences.

PleaseRobMe Hits Foursquare Users with a Dose of Reality
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  • http://bit.ly/mariorodriguez Mario Rodriguez

    I understand the whole point of pleaserobme however that would likely apply to someone that you know meets the following criteria:

    Lives alone
    No alarm system
    No surveillance system
    No neighbors

    I did a few searches everywhere and did not see where 4sq.com is adding “left home..” to any of the tweets so that is also annoying that they (pleaserobme) are doing that. For all we know the guys behind that could be also behind foursquare trying to gain more exposure.

    If you don’t secure your home it’s the same as a store leaving a cash drawer open you will get robbed. Besides that yes the public should be made aware of the many reasons we should be careful about the information we share online publicly.

    Bottom line is security is and always will be a concern for anyone doing anything online period. Sharing your location online is no different than the guy that had his house cleaned out while he was out of town by a posting on craigslist.

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

    I think it gets dangerous when history tracking gets involved and trends. While a good thief will most certainly understand intuitively when a neighborhood is empty… perhaps the not so intelligent thieves are the ones everybody should be afraid of.

    That NBC special where 40-60 year old men show up on the doorsteps of 12 year old girls houses with bottles of liqueur and condoms comes to mind…

  • http://wordsforhirellc.com Karen Swim

    I use social media but have never been comfortable with location sharing services. I have accounts on some of these services including Foursquare but have shared only 2 updates. As a single woman I work hard to ensure my safety and it seemed counterintuitive to share my whereabouts with the world. I am not bashing any one service but we should all be mindful that the little pieces of information we share in various mediums can divulge more about our lives than we realize.

  • http://www.quote-4.me.uk/home-insurance.html Mattwi

    It doesn’t just apply to people living alone.

    I don’t live alone, but I go most places with my wife.
    Bells only alarms are frequently ignored.
    What if your neighbours aren’t in either? Or they don’t want ot get involved?
    What if the whole family has gone on holiday?

    There are many situations where a home may be left empty or ignored. They raise a valid point, we are now sharing too much information publicly. Footballers’ houses are often burgled or vandalised when they are playing in Europe for instance.

    Perhaps facebook and the like shouldn’t add “updated by mobile” to their posts…

  • Guest

    Just like everything else in life, virtual or not, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction!

    cheating spouse

  • John Kay Wiggill

    It reminds me of the news media thinking that sharing military battle plans is a public service.

    Before writing this I checked out the Please Rob Me website and found that they have taken their dumb ass “service” down, saying… Uhhh we’ve made our point and we’re not doing this anymore.

    I wonder why? Because they have just became accessories to anyone in the country who’s house has been robbed. Of course they never consulted an attorney before they launched their childish little concept, because they are smarter than anyone else.

    I expect that a team of lawers is scouring police reports of people who have been robbed since “Please Rob Me” so deftly made your private information available. Lawyers ready and willing to Take Down or should I say Take All The Worldly Possessions Of the owners of Please Rob Me.

    So like WPN reader says… for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Let’s see who gets robbed next.

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