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'Please Rob Me': The website that tells the world when you're not at home


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'Please Rob Me': The website that tells the world when you're not at home



By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 7:26 PM on 18th February 2010




A website that provides minute by minute updates on people who are not at home has sparked concern that it will encourage burglars.


The site, called Please Rob Me, launched this week and has been criticised for being the perfect tool for any self-respecting housebreaker.

But the three brains behind the website insist they're not helping criminals, but highlighting the dangers of the latest social networking craze of announcing to the world where you are at any given moment via the internet.



Website Please Rob Me launched this week and has been criticised for being the perfect tool for any self-respecting housebreaker


Social networking crazes such as Foursquare, in which users post their location online, are a goldmine for potential burglars, the website's founders said.


The Please Rob Me website says: 'Our intention is not, and never has been, to have people burglarized.'

Instead they are trying to alert people to the danger of putting too much information on the world wide web.


The Dutch website channels information from other networking sites like Twitter into one place, listing 'all those empty homes out there' and providing a running total of 'new opportunities'.

The information it provides on people's movements is searchable by city or by their Twitter username.

'We're leaving the lights on when we're going on a holiday, but we're telling everybody on the internet we're not home,' said co-founder Frank Groeneveld, 22.

'The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you're definitely not - home.


'We're not trying to get people robbed, but helping them not to get robbed. We're just presenting this information in a more obvious way. And that's our point: Everyone can see this on Twitter.

'At first we thought about it as a prank, but while developing the site we started to realise it really is a big risk (and problem), so it became a cultural statement.'

Foursquare is a Twitter-type application which turns city maps into game boards, helps friends meet up, and awards 'prizes' to the most active of its 150,000 followers.

They 'check in' on their mobile phone to record their position on a map, indicating where they are and more importantly, where they aren't. It's called geolocation technology.

Those details are fed to Twitter, and can be searched by anyone in the world. A search for '4sq [email protected] london' on Twitter reveals a stream of information posted by Londoners who have left their houses - creating a potential burglars' wish-list.

Criminals monitoring their movements can, with a little extra investigation, pin down their exact address, and simply wait for the tweet that says 'nobody's home'.

In some cases users 'check in' giving the exact address of a friend's home, which makes life even easier for the criminal.

'We saw people "checking in" at their home addresses, or even worse, those of their friends and family, which we just thought was very wrong,' said another co-founder Boy Von Amstel.

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