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PleaseRobMe Is the Logical Extension of Our Worst Fears about Location-Based Services

The rise of location-based social media holds a lot of promise and benefit for participants. But a legitimate concern about them is that they make it too easy to track where you are. For some people, that’s more information than they want out there.

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Well, three guys – Barry Borsboom, Frank Groeneveld, Boy van Amstel – have taken this fear to its logical extension, with their site Please Rob Me. It tracks all the location-based updates people put out there via Foursquare. I assume Gowalla, Brightkite and other applications wouldn’t be far behind. And “helpfully” posts them to its site, and to its Twitter account.

Here’s a screen shot of how the site displays these updates:

Note that message there at the bottom. Their intention is not to have people burglarized. So what is their intent? From their site:

The danger is publicly telling people where you are. 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. It gets even worse if you have “friends” who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That’s right, slap them across the face.

The goal of this website is to raise some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc.

I do see the Google ads on the site. Which for some people will undercut the message and put the focus on the money-making opportunity. But in a conversation on Twitter about this with Keith Crawford, I likened what these guys are doing to hacking a system to show its vulnerability, not to corrupt it.

Because if these guys can pull this together, who else can?

Won’t stop me from my pedestrian check-ins (BART, Costco, Trader Joe’s, etc.). But these guys have made tangible the fear we have with these services.

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