The Internet: A burglar’s best friend

25 02 2011

With the recent major increase in smartphone applications, such as Foursquare, potential burglars can now monitor your activities from the comfort of their own couch.

With the development of Web 2.0, information sharing has become a societal norm, as people no longer think twice about sharing their location with others. But has this become a burglar’s best friend? Have we put our safety in jeopardy? And are we advertising our vacant residence?

Through Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter (to name a few) we are checking into locations, gaining badges and interacting with our friends. While location sharing may seem to be the way the world is moving, we must also be careful to consider the ethical considerations behind this.

For this reason location based sharing has come under heavy fire in recent times. Websites, such as, aim to highlight the dangers of location based sharing.

As users are often trying to build their following on Twitter, they often leave their profiles on public. Therefore, anyone can instantly see their ‘Tweets’. Once a person Tweets their location, this is public information. So what is to stop a potential burglar following a family’s Twitter accounts and simply waiting for an opportunity in which the family share their location? Or perhaps a burglar may prefer to track a person living on their own?

Lets take an example from Facebook and or Foursquare . Whether or not we choose to admit it, most of us aim to maximize our friends on Facebook so as we can convince ourselves that we have over 500 friends. This is why, when a nightclub or event adds us, we often accept. While we are so caught up in our privacy settings on Facebook and other social networks, we often forget the golden rule – don’t accept strangers.

With the increase in location sharing we are making a burglars job easier than ever before. We ensure that the alarm is set, the door is locked and the lights are left on; and then we check in at the airport. What is the point in sophisticated alarms that contact the police once activated when we contact the burglars and let them know that we are heading out?

This location sharing phenomenon is not going to go away, in fact it is only going to increase with the emergence of Web 3.0 and new technologies. Therefore instead of trying to tackle the issue we must embrace it. Check in, unlock new badges and share with your friends – just your friends. But why do I encourage this? Because if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind. The internet is connecting users like never before and we must be prepared for this.

However, the main things to take into considerations when checking in are; check into your area and not your address! Once you or your friends check in at your exact address this information is available online! And of course – don’t accept people you don’t know!

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4 responses

26 02 2011

Great read. Location security is one to consider but even before that people should think before they make the biggest broadcast of their houses being unoccupied eg “off to Malaga for 2 weeks” or “parents away free house, PARTY!!!” and along these lines just scream for stangers to find out this stuff and also you never know who your friends and followers are talking to and innocentently talking about “your free house” or your family holiday and so on. NEVER BROADCAST THIS INFO

26 02 2011

Thanks for the comment Gavin, really builds on the overall message. We must be careful on what we say and who is viewing it.

26 02 2011
Darragh Byrne

This certainly raises a valid point for concern. I think that it is imperative individuals be smart about what they share in the online environment, however who is the responsibility on? I feel that ultimately, yes people are responsible for themselves, but are sites like facebook, twitter and foursquare making enough of an effort? Do we need to be a little more protected from ourselves in such a transparent environment?

26 02 2011

Thanks for the comment Darragh. Some great questions raised here. One particular concern of mine is the ability to check a friend in on Facebook without them approving this (however this feature can be disabled).

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