Funny Business with Jane Wells

Funny Business in Social Networking


Earlier this week I discussed the "Dopeler Effect" — "The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly."

I'm thinking I should rename this blog The Dopeler Effect. Or at least use that title for the occasional post.

Like this one.

Today's example of the Dopeler Effect involves social networking. Our desire to share every little detail about ourselves can be a really stupid idea that seems smart because everyone else is rapidly doing it all over the internet. Whether it's on , or newer Web sites like foursquare, some of us even reveal our exact locations.

Burglars must be thrilled.

A new Web site is trying to scare us straight.

It's called The site was reportedly created by three Dutch developers after one of them was awakened at night by a would-be burglar. Afterwards, he started thinking about what might have happened if he hadn't been home. Then he started thinking about all the people who broadcast such news on the internet. Then they created the Web site. tracks—and posts for public consumption—announcements by people all over the world notifying the online world that they're not at home. "I'm at Manhattan Beach Farmer's Market" says @captainsean. Gee, bet Captain Sean is pleased that is distributing the news. Except he already did that himself. "Our intention is not, and never has been, to have people burgled," the site says. "All this site is, is a dressed up Twitter page. Everybody can get this information."

Ok, so you're not home and you tweet that. That's not a problem as long as burglars don't know where you live, right? Make sure it stays that way, because sometimes it doesn't. Even if you never post your home address on social networking sites, others might. "It gets even worse if you have 'friends' who want to colonize your house," says the Web site. "That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet." The Web site advice? "Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That's right, slap them across the face."

PleaseRobMe has been funded by a company called For The Hack, which describes itself as a launching pad for "early stage ideas and concepts". They claim the site has gotten so much buzz they're now looking to offer it a foundation or agency which can raise awareness about online privacy issues. I've contacted the owners to see if they've had any takers yet.

I've also asked if anyone has threatened to sue them for republishing what was already public.

I'll let you know.

By the way, I'm home right now. With my ferocious basset hound, er, Doberman.

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