Why Privacy Is Important: Please Rob Me
Article by George Norman
On 19 Feb 2010
After International Data Privacy Day, Google’s guiding privacy guidelines, and Google’s Superbowl ad, our attention is drawn to the privacy issue once again. This time it is a site called Please Rob Me created by a Barry Borsboom, Frank Groeneveld, and Boy van Amstel that showcases just how important privacy is – and how dangerous geolocational social networking could be.

The site jokingly says that it is meant to aid burglars. Please Rob Me pulls down information publicly available on Foursquare and Twitter to let the assumed robber know if the victim is at home or not. The site’s true intention is not to aid burglars in any way; it just wants to draw attention to the fact that the info you post online could be used against you.

Advertising

For example if you tweet something like “went to the seaside for the weekend; be back Monday morning” you are basically advertising to the world the fact that you’re home is ripe for the picking. That light you left on will not do you any good, it will not fool anyone.

“It will be interesting to see if Foursquare and Twitter attempt to prevent Please Rob Me from automatically scooping up data from their sites following the publicity this "service" has received, but the most important thing we can all learn from this website is the importance of being more careful with the information we share with everybody on the internet,” commented Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant with Sophos, company that specializes in providing antivirus, anti-spam, spyware removal software, network and internet security, data protection, and computer security solutions.

22-year old computer science student from the Netherlands Frank Groeneveld says he came up with the idea for Please Rob Me when a burglar targeted this home not too long ago. After he managed to scare off the burglar, he was left with this question: what if the burglar had come when I was out? When he saw that Twitter status updates include the location of the Twitter user, he realized that these users inadvertently advertise the fact that they are not at home – and that a burglar could pay them a visit while they are away.

“We're not trying to get people robbed, but helping them not to get robbed,” said Groeneveld. “We're just presenting this information in a more obvious way. And that's our point: Everyone can see this on Twitter.”



Tags: Please Rob Me, Twitter, Privacy, Security
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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