For awhile I was enjoying a location-based app called Gowalla on my iPhone. Similar to FourSquare, it allows you to collect virtual “stamps” for creating “spots” in real-world locations, assigning them to categories, and dropping or picking up items in a scavenger hunt-style. You can then broadcast to your Gowalla friends, Facebook, or your Twitter feed when you check in at any of these spots.
It was (and is) a fun, clever idea. I enjoyed similar activities in the MMORPGs City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, which was known affectionately in CoH as “badge-whoring”. During the initial giddy rush of having a new shiny with juicy, colorful graphics, I annoyed my Facebook friends and Twitstream by posting my spots at every opportunity. Rather quickly, however, I began to think that posting my current whereabouts publicly may not be such a good idea. I turned off the Gowalla feed to Twitter within a week and, about a month after that, the Facebook feed. Currently, the only people who can see my latest Gowalla update (rare though they’ve become) are specific friends who are also on Gowalla. Other Gowalla users can see your latest checkins, if they search on the Gowalla.com site specifically for your name or email address, or by picking an existing spot and seeing all the users who have checked in there. Not 100% secure, but slightly more reasonable.
The point is, though these things can be fun, not only are you telling everyone where you’re at, you’re also telling them where you are not:
As reported by an article on TechCrunch today, a group of guys went way past my own vague sense of unease and created a site to warn people of the dangers of screaming, “Here I am!” to the entire world: Please Rob Me.com.
If you’re a FourSquare user (currently the only location-based app being tracked), and broadcast your location on Twitter, take a look at the site and the constantly updating list of currently empty homes. Now plug in your Twitter name. See how easy that was?
Granted, a potential robber would have to know where your house is to take advantage of the information, but if it’s someone who already knows you and is looking for an opportunity to help him- or herself to your stuff, you may as well hand them your keys and a bag to carry it in (paper or plastic?).
Please. Think before you give everyone the 411.