Another day, another Daily Mail-esque panic about how social networking is causing the downfall of modern society as we know it. This time it’s pleaserobme.com, a site that scrapes location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla and publicises the fact that you’re - shock, horror - not at home.
It’s a clever idea, but it does of course rely on a certain amount of coding skill to be able to set it up in the first place.
So, in the spirit of opening the web to wider participation, I’m putting my method of figuring out which house is worth robbing into the public domain. No copyright, no patents, fully Creative Commonsed for your remixing pleasure of this simple four-step process.
Drive or walk around your intended target area during the hours of darkness, and make careful note of houses with cars parked outside.
Return the following day during office hours, and carefully note the location of those houses which no longer have cars parked outside.
Break into those houses which are sans-car - the owners are likely to be out.
You’ll notice that my process has no internet component, unless you want to keep those notes in a Google spreadsheet or something.
Clearly the ease with which I - and you, with a little training and practice - can detect which houses are potentially empty is a serious threat to the cohesion of modern society, so I fully expect that insurance companies will react accordingly. I’m looking forward to reading the press releases which mutter darkly about how people who have the temerity to park their cars outside their houses will see their insurance premiums rise to counter this threat.
And no doubt the Daily Mail will start a campaign to ban the use of non-garage parking - isn’t it better to be safe than sorry, after all?
Unfortunately this is just another demonstration of how “internet” somehow gets equated with “new” when it comes to potential risks. The additional risk posed to your belongings by posting your whereabouts on Gowalla is so small as to be impossible to calculate, however much the actuaries would love to try. If we stopped to contemplate every risk of this type, we’d cower in corners and never go anywhere - let alone multiplying them by the bogeyman factor of teh Interwebs.
It’s lazy journalism at best, and lazy thinking if you do take it too seriously.
Oh, and if you are planning on using my Gowalla checkins to work out when you can pop round to relieve me of my belongings, there’s a couple of things you should bear in mind. Firstly, just because I’m out it doesn’t necessarily follow that my house is empty. And secondly, be sure to introduce yourself to my large, snarly and (potentially) bitey dog while you’re round…