Social Media, Meet Personal Safety

After spending some time thinking about the concepts behind a recently launched site, Please Rob Me ( I am understanding how quickly social media could cause a lot of destruction to a person or their property.

It would be very easy for spammers to start using tools like this for evil. It’s very similar to how at (minus the evil) we test things like CTR, conversion rates, potential earnings before launching code.  You take all the information and use similarities and dissimilarities to create rules about the likelihood of something.

Again I stress it would be very easy to create an instance that gathers data from any of the sites people post their geo-location: twitter, foursquare,, geocaching sites and many, many more. Use status phrases like ‘at home’ to determine people’s and ‘wish I was home’ or ‘going home’ to determine non home locations. Do the same to determine work locations, work hours and trends about when a person is typically home, at work or in transit. Create flags for twitter hash tags people use when people go to major conferences that involve travel but not long enough trips to cause people to have a house sitter or neighbor stop by. Hitting a nerve yet?

Toss in geo-locations on photos from flickr, primarily being posted from phones where you are typically posting immediately. Also look for tags, titles or descriptions like ‘my house’ or ‘at home’.

Then start to determine who may have valuable possessions. Who tends to post about getting a new ___insert electronic device here___?  Who posts about traveling a lot?  Using simple questions like that you can devise a system to determine the cost/benefit value for robberies, muggings, assaults.

Thus far we’ve done this through only scripts and the only manual labor was in creating the system.  Toss in some manual labor of scanning some of those home photographs for traits – electronics in the home, electronics on the person and other valuables. Then create a simple email or SMS alert system – allow subscriptions or the ability to target or see if the system will work on a particular person.

Starting to scare you yet? Good. I’m not saying it’s going to happen but any capable spammer or web developer could create a system like this.  It may already be happening and even if a robbery or assault had occurred we wouldn’t know it was a computerized system that triggered the attack.

In an economy with a higher unemployment rate than most of us have ever seen could we find the back to baics, now highly targeted, robberies on the rise?


Worse yet could this take cyber stalking to a new level where someone doesn’t even need to try to track a person.  Think of what that crazy ex-lover could do to your vehicle’s paint job now or if a child’s safety could be at risk because of Lifetime Original Movie style family history.  I joke but really just imagine the dangerous potential.

Crimes could very well be being perpetrated now based on just some of these ideas. I don’t know for sure but to make sure I’m at least partially protected I think I’ll keep my geo location hidden as often as I can.

Guest Post By Terri Ann Swallow