Jan 22

I saw this post from my friend Andrew Hyde on the homepage of Tech Meme today and judging by the number of reactions he got his story struck a nerve. Long story short: in the course of using LBS apps like Bright Kite and Foursquare to announce his location he picked up a stalker who would coincidently “bump into him” wherever he went. Creepy.

So the “people knowing where I am and stalking me” scenario is one potential negative implication of using these types of services. But there’s another to consider:

Not only do these services tell the world where you are, they also tell the world where you aren’t.

My friend Bill said it most eloquently the other day when I had posted this tweet:


This is a pretty standard convention when you’re going on a trip. He cleverly responded:

Bill -> Sean’s house -> Pawn Shop -> Casino

And immediately I realized he’s right.

Twitter is just one surface area too. I also have my LinkedIn account integrated with my Tripit account so that it passively tells my contacts when and where I’m traveling. Presumably there’s no threat from people you’re connected to but as these social networks gravitate towards being more and more public (as FB has demonstrated recently) innocent location announcements to trusted friends become inadvertent invitations to burglars with remedial googling skills. Add in a little smoke screen creativity by placing a hoax Craigslist ad and you have a repeatable formula for low-risk burglaries.

Something to think about.

6 Responses to “You Are (not) Here: the perils of LBS”

  1. @andrewhyde says:

    I was amazed in the nerve it hit.

  2. James Britt says:

    Certain opportunities draw the exhibitionists like flies. You can't spell "social media" without "me".

    There's a fascination with publicizing the most arcane detail and minutia, whihc makes places like Twitter a wet dream for data-mining marketeers but a tedious swamp for serious use.

    One of my Twitter/Friendfeed culling criteria is incessant announcing of location. Leave that to more private communication.

    You'd think it was obvious that announcing you were thousands of miles from home might invite trouble. I don't *really* know how tech-clever thieves are, but I get they're ahead of the curve.

    If you're using an LBS be sure you have your burglar alarm hooked up to twitter as well, so you can be promptly and publicly informed of any transgressions. Hey, maybe there's a business in that …

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by HowDo.us, Sean Tierney and Rick_Mason, Matt Dickson. Matt Dickson said: Scrollin' On Dubs » You Are (not) Here: the perils of LBS http://bit.ly/8OloWD […]

  4. Jamon says:


    <get -off-the-grid>

  5. Thank you for the post.
    Good remark, even if it is also a scary one…
    I never thought about this googling skilled burglar but it is certainly going to be the case soon.
    That´s the real danger of submitting anykind of data, which is viewable by the rest of the world: as long as nobody uses it maliciously, it´s great, in the other case, it´s a weapon against ourselves.

  6. Glenn says:

    A big shift in our society has occurred the past few years. We have gone from fearing the security of the internet to anything/everything goes, your nobody unless everything about you is transparent. There is little to no digital hygiene that is of any concern with many of the nets younger users. This is all they have known since HS, so it must be safe, secure, and no problem. I don’t know where this all nets out for privacy and society. Caution is still necessary, storage is unlimited and cheap and everything is connected.

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