Please Rob Me and the problem with social media

Satirical website Please Rob Me points out a worrisome byproduct of Twitter, FourSquare, and location-aware services.

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Please Rob Me pokes fun at social-media fan's desire to share a bit too much.

Just today, this blog explored the pros and problematic cons of online services that announce where you are at any given moment. A new website takes this fear to a somewhat humorous extreme.

Please Rob Me mocks all of the FourSquare users that have told Twitter to automatically broadcast their whereabouts. In a perfect world, the two social networking sites pair up nicely – tell FourSquare that you've checked into your office or arrived at a bumping party, and Twitter lets your friends know that this might not be a good time to bug you, or that they'd better join the fiesta.

"The danger is publicly telling people where you are," explains "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."

Please Rob Me's front page is a scrolling list of everyone who has just "left home." Dozens of new entries hit every minute. You can filter through the endless results by city or username. The site even hints at how long would-be burglars – or surprise-party organizers – have to hatch their scheme, since Twitter and FourSquare also share when you marked your location.

"Our intention is not, and never has been, to have people burglarized," says "Don't get us wrong, we love the whole location-aware thing. The information is very interesting and can be used to create some pretty awesome applications. However, the way in which people are stimulated to participate in sharing this information, is less awesome."

The site has drawn some criticism for privacy concerns, but most people seem to get the joke. Anyone whose name appears on Please Rob Me has only himself to blame. This information was available before – the site just called you on it.

A poll on the prominent tech blog ZDNet asked readers what they thought about the service. The consensus: "People deserve to be mocked." Only 24 percent of voters said the site was unethical.


PleaseRobMe: Thumbs up or thumbs down? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and follow our Twitter feed for more tech culture and news. We're @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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