Please Rob Me is a free service that demonstrates the dangers of using location based services publicly on the Internet.
Location based services can be helpful to the user, no question about that. They are most often implemented and used when you are using mobile devices, as they can return the current location using geolocation services or different means.
They are used for a variety of positive things, like displaying all restaurants in your vicinity, locating the closest post office or supermarket, or locating friends or objects.
They may also help you when you use Google Maps or other maps services, may load the correct localized page for you when you open a site, or display information such as weather reports to you based on the location.
But these location based services can also pose a threat, especially if the information they provide are made publicly available.
Please Rob Me demonstrates the dangers of location based services by enabling you to search for Twitter user handles to find out if location information are disclosed publicly.
The idea behind the service is to check whether a Twitter handle reveals location information when making posts. It is then just a matter of using other information provided on Twitter to find out whether a user is at home or not.
Naturally, this could be used for malicious things such as robbing a home or for scouting an object. A user posting that he or she is on holiday for instance might already be enough, but if the information is confirmed by location information, it makes it almost to easy for burglars.
The website conveniently links to the Google Maps location of the person who posted the status update (which usually is the user's home address).
The danger is publicly telling people where you are. 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. It gets even worse if you have "friends" who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. 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.
The goal of the project is of course not to provide criminals with an opportunity to rob houses but to raise awareness that location based services if linked to public notifications can be dangerous to the individual. (via Caschy)
Update: The service is still available and working as advertised. You only have to enter the user name of a user in the latest version, and not the location as well which makes things a lot easier to use.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.