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I Use Twitter, Please Rob Me 403

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the serves-the-twits-right dept.
nk497 writes "Developers looking to prove a point about the information people are sharing on social networking sites have unveiled a new tool called Please Rob Me. It hunts out tweets from people who are also using location-based services telling the world that they're out of town, and then directs the world to go rob their house. The creators of the site said: 'Don't get us wrong, we love the whole location-aware thing. The information is very interesting and can be used to create some pretty awesome applications. However, the way in which people are stimulated to participate in sharing this information is less awesome.' How long until the first actual robbery takes place?"
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I Use Twitter, Please Rob Me

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  • by Nzimmer911 (1553899) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:03AM (#31184498)
    Thank you Please Rob Me! My new LED TV is awesome!
  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:03AM (#31184502)
    I sense some legal trouble for these guys in the near future..
    • by discord5 (798235) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:08AM (#31184570)

      I sense some legal trouble for these guys in the near future..

      Sadly PleaseSueMe.com has already been taken, or they would've been able to set a new trend.

    • and companies providing location services as they are more likely to have money.

      • by mea37 (1201159)

        Doubtful.

        Twitter advertises a service and provides the service at user request. They probably have a clause in their TOS that releases them from liability for indirect harm; while those kinds of term are often over-broad and partially unenforcable, this is pretty much exactly the kind of thing they're designed for: user does X using vendor's product/service, and an unintended consequence bites user in the rear.

        The folks with the Please Rob Me campaign probably aren't breaking any criminal laws (though I wo

    • by Idaho (12907) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:15AM (#31184690)

      Doubt it, since they obviously don't live in the USA. Good for them, then :)

      • Which country are they in? I can scarcely believe that encouraging people to rob a specific person's house isn't actionable in every first world country.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Just check his twitter feed: http://twitter.com/Mikepruett [twitter.com]. He's not home right now, btw.

          Need his address?

          MLT Group
          4012 5th Place NW
          Rochester, MN 55901
          US

          Domain name: PLEASESUEME.COM
          Administrative Contact:
          Pruett, Mike mlt@mltgroup.com
          411 N Broadway
          Lower Level
          Rochester, MN 55906
          US
          507-281-3490

          hththxhand

        • by Idaho (12907) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:13AM (#31185654)

          Their names look very Dutch to me (I'm Dutch myself), so I'm guessing the Netherlands (or perhaps Belgium).

          You're probably right that "encouraging people to rob a specific person's house is actionable in every first world country". However, that's clearly not their stated intention - to the contrary, in fact.

          In the Netherlands, if someone would start a lawsuit about this (could happen, sure), I'm guessing chances are pretty good that the judge will buy the argument of the website authors, especially since burglars can already trivially find the exact same information if they have two half-working brain cells, and their stated purpose is to actually make people aware of this obvious problem. In addition, whoever starts the lawsuit would probably first have to prove actual damages (e.g. being robbed), and that this was caused by this website, and even then there's the obvious counterpoint that they put this information online themselves in the first place, and it might have been trivially found without that website. The apparent intention (of the website authors) matters as well, probably more so than in the USA (this is just a feeling, I may be wrong).

          So, it's hard to prove that a robbery was "caused" or "encouraged" by this website, even then it involved your own stupidity in putting that information publicly on the internet in the first place, therefore the chances of winning (as the person who got robbed) seem not that great. In addition to that, mostly everyone here has insurance covering their household effects, meaning they'd get (most of) the money back from an insurance company anyway, so why bother with the lawsuit.

          Finally, if you lose, you typically have to pay the legal costs of the defending side - so starting the lawsuit is not without financial risk in the first place.

          Much of this is probably also true in the USA, but the legal costs involved would be higher, and I somehow have a feeling, also the chances of losing. (IANAL, so I may be wrong about that.)

      • by xaxa (988988)

        They're also doing nothing more than putting pretty pictures round a Twitter search page: http://twitter.com/search?q=4sq%20-@foursquare [twitter.com].

    • I sense some legal trouble for these guys in the near future..

      I don't think there is any ground for those people to be sued. They are only using publicly available information - nothing wrong in that.

  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:03AM (#31184508)

    This isn't news. People's houses are cleared out regularly due to their Facebook status.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:07AM (#31184568)

      And before facebook (or any other social networking stuff) there were the obituaries in the local paper...

      • by Arimus (198136) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:15AM (#31184692)

        Or just forgetting to cancel the milk or the pile of post just inside the front door, or news papers you forgot to cancel etc etc etc.

        • by Rary (566291) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:34AM (#31184986)

          Or just forgetting to cancel the milk or the pile of post just inside the front door, or news papers you forgot to cancel etc etc etc.

          There is a bit of a difference between leaving signs that you're away visible to anyone who happens to be passing your home, and actually broadcasting that information on the internet. More to the point, people who might otherwise take precautions, like getting a friend to pick up their mail while they're away on vacation, end up broadcasting the fact that they're away to the whole net-connected world and think nothing of it.

          Of course, the detail that has been left out is that a Twitter search won't tell you if the alarm has been armed or if the three nasty rottweilers have been fed recently.

    • by Potor (658520) <farker1@gmail . c om> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:17AM (#31184740) Journal
      Most houses are empty between 9-5, MTWTrF.
    • The difference between that and this is that generally, you have to stalk someones facebook status to notice when they're out of town, and thats when you strike.

      Developers wrote a tool to follow tweets and then inform its users "This person is gone." - Basically automating the step of following people and sifting through tweets.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:33AM (#31184968) Homepage

      Which is why my facebook status is usually.....

      "hunkered down bwehind sandbags in view of the door. Itching to try out my new 10 gauge semiautomatic shotgun..."

      or

      " need to leave for supplies, I have claymore mines set up all over the house, I hope I dont trip one again when I come home and kill the new dog like last time."

      For some reason I dont get any visitors... even from friends.

    • by Deadplant (212273)

      oh henny-penny the sky is falling!
      Half the bloody country clears out of their houses for 8 hours every weekday.
      There is no shortage of empty houses to rob.

    • by MiniMike (234881) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:19AM (#31185758)

      Hmm. My new Facebook status:

      "New shotgun looks and shoots great, really rounds out collection. Staying home this week since winning another martial arts championship. The new Rotweiler gets along great with the Dobermans."

  • by Mashdar (876825)
    welcome our new squatter neighbors.
  • by Rurik (113882) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:05AM (#31184534)

    Yes, physical security, you're away from your home. So are a vast majority of people from between the hours of 9AM to 3PM every day. There's been a lot of backlash over this site, including Twitter suspending their account, which is just silly. It's the same level of surveillance that someone can do by just parking in front of your home. It's just that now they can see you over FourSquare (speaking of silly...). It's the same as posting on Twitter that you're stuck in traffic, or sending an email from a work-only address. Just another in a very, very long list of ways to see where you're currently at.

    Criminals will still just sit out in front of your house and wait for the cars the leave.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sure, everyone leaves home, sometime. But, even a regular work schedule gets unexpected interruptions. People get sick, play hookie, take a personal day, etc. So, a would be thief can never be sure if you are there or not. Sure, they can setup camp outside and watch the house, that's a tried and true technique. But, you have to preselect your victim to do that and then exert some effort as well as risk being spotted while casing the joint.

      But, with people Twittering and Facebooking their whereabouts a perpe

      • When someone is away from his home there might still be a spouse or sons living there, someone house-sitting, or on an eventual visit to feed the cat. Parking in front of the house still seems the best option.

      • by Rary (566291) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:41AM (#31185082)

        This is exactly the point. Computers didn't enter the workplace so that people could suddenly do things that they couldn't do before. Computers simply made those work activities more efficient and effective. The same is true for other uses of computers. Using computers in crime doesn't mean crimes occur where they couldn't before, just that the criminals are more efficient and effective.

        Besides, someone using old-fashioned casing techniques would assume that my house is empty right now because I normally leave for work at 6:45. However, someone using modern casing techniques (if I were a Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare user) would know that I'm working from home today.

        This kind of technology takes much of the risk out of burglarizing homes.

    • Criminals will still just sit out in front of your house and wait for the cars the leave.

      Parent is spot on. Any way you cut it, if someone really wants to get into your house, they're going to get in. It's a balance of how difficult are you going to make it for someone else to know you're away and how hard it is to get into your house versus how badly that person wants to get into your house.

  • poor thieves (Score:2, Interesting)

    by f3r (1653221)
    I can also imagine guys tweeting as if they were on holidays, but being home-entrenched and armed to the teeth, just for the fun of shooting at thieves.
    • by Fast Thick Pants (1081517) <fastthickpants@@@gmail...com> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:16AM (#31184712)

      Pretty long odds for the itchy trigger finger set... They'd soon get bored waiting and try to sweeten the pot.

      12:00 - leaving 4 grandmas, back in 2 weeks
      16:00 - plenty of beer in the fridge for when I get back tho, hope it doesn't get skunky
      18:00 - crap, left my rolex on the nitestand
      21:00 - crap, wife left her diamonds
      22:00 - crap, left the keys in the door
      22:30 - crap, left the keys in the truck too
      22:45 - crap, told the neighbor some moving guys were coming by around midnight

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Personally I don't have a problem with this kind of thing. Really, I don't. Want to rob, consider it a hazardous conditions.

      I mean if someone wants to fuck with my stuff, then they have to fuck with me and my big guns. We shouldn't be protecting the asshats on the off chance that a drunk guy broken into my house accidentally, or it was a couple of stupid kids.

      Stupid should hurt. Criminals are stupid lazy asshats for the most part, who are antisocial to boot.

      I'm sick and tired of people who want to coddle th

  • by 2obvious4u (871996) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:07AM (#31184566)
    doesn't mean you should.

    It is one thing for unscrupulous behavior to happen, it is another to encourage it. Their motives may be "pure" in that they are trying to bring awareness about what people know about you and what "could" happen. That doesn't mean it should happen. Not everyone is a crook and we should all strive to not be crooks, it is better for everyone. There used to be a time when everyone left there doors unlocked and trusted the community to not rob them. Now the community is encouraging people to rob people. The issue isn't people sharing their information, its people like these guys who are just being ass holes. We shouldn't have to hide our information, people should just respect each other enough not to steal their stuff.
    • by LMacG (118321)

      And just because you can allow foursquare to barrage your friends with location updates (which is probably the default, based on what I've seen) doesn't mean you should. The issue isn't people sharing their information, it's people screaming "look at me, look at me".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cduffy (652)

        I haven't told Foursquare about my Twitter account, or about my Facebook account, or about anything else. I use it because some places I frequent offer discounts to customers who do; that's it.

        So -- by default, Foursquare can't talk to anything else; it's your friends who hook it up to Twitter and such who are being the asses.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      Of course, but endorsing the breaking of the law is also illegal...

      It's one thing to say that somebody else is out of town for a few days, it's quite another to actually recommend or suggest that somebody really rob his house while they are away.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BrokenHalo (565198)
      We shouldn't have to hide our information, people should just respect each other enough not to steal their stuff.

      That would be a nice warm fuzzy world to live in, but the truth is that on this grossly overpopulated planet, we all HAVE to hide our personal information, because the world is just too full of asswipes to just pretend they don't exist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jawn98685 (687784)
      Sorry, this is definitely a case of "should". Clueless Twitter users (prepending "clueless" seems almost redundant...) who advertise to the world stuff that only a fool would advertise in any other medium need to have their noses rubbed in their own stupidity.
  • by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:09AM (#31184592)
    The site doesn't tell you whether everyone in the household is gone, only if one person in the household is gone. A robber would still have to peek in the windows and do whatever it is robbers do to make sure the house is empty. But they could do that just by walking around some random neighbourhood and peeking in random windows; they don't need Twitter to tell them to peek into someone's windows.
    • The site doesn't tell you whether everyone in the household is gone, only if one person in the household is gone. A robber would still have to peek in the windows and do whatever it is robbers do to make sure the house is empty. But they could do that just by walking around some random neighbourhood and peeking in random windows; they don't need Twitter to tell them to peek into someone's windows.

      IDK, it seems like you could probably figure out whether a lot of tweeters live alone or not based their previous tweets.

    • The site doesn't tell you whether everyone in the household is gone, only if one person in the household is gone. A robber would still have to peek in the windows and do whatever it is robbers do to make sure the house is empty.

      Maybe you're picturing robbers as guys dressed in black, wearing masks, twirling their mustaches, and carrying big sacks as a profession. Many times robbers are friends or acquaintances. They know who lives in your house and if they can check both your locations via twitter, they know they have a good shot at your house. A lot of robberies are done by people the victim has met who are opportunists. Heck, statistically, walking down the same jogging path as a burglar increases your chances of being burgled.

  • by Ltap (1572175) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:10AM (#31184600) Homepage
    But if this raises awareness, full steam ahead. People need to figure out that if they have minute-by-minute updates of where they are and what they are doing, all of which is publically available, they will sooner or later have consequences.

    Moreso than robberies: I'm surprised we don't have rapes because of this, i.e. a girl tweeting while drunk.
  • It's just like those "bait cars" the cops use.
    • Not sure if it would be an effective honeypot... you still have to be home, or have someone watching it, all the while making sure your home looks like there's no one in it.

      And you don't even know if your home will be targeted by a thief.

      Now if those subscription home surveillance systems actually worked instead of being scams, it might work...

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        How about a victim-initiated HBIED?

      • The cops wouldn't use a home that had people actually LIVING in it as a honeypot. The liability risk would be insane. No, they'd rent an apartment themselves and keep it vacant and under surveillance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      I just wish the bait cars were full of explosives.

      Honestly, Blow up a few car jackers or car thieves and make it REALLY public and suddenly car thefts will go way down.

      • I just wish the bait cars were full of explosives. Honestly, Blow up a few car jackers or car thieves and make it REALLY public and suddenly car thefts will go way down.

        Probably wouldn't work so well for innocent bystanders though.

  • If I give my phone to someone else, then sit at home with my webcam streaming to the web, and a gun....

    Can I kill an intruder in legitimate self defence while it happens to be broadcasting to the web?

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Only if you post the URL to /. so we can watch
    • Mmm, well according to my Simpsons guide to everything I need to know about the US of A, it don't work if you invite them in. Could be called entrapment. Honey traps by the cops are legal because they don't entice people to break into those honey pots, they don't leave extra valuable stuff in the car or leave the door open or something like that, just another parked car, no enticement == funny arrest videos.

  • I always set bear traps in my house when I'm out of town. Take that, PleaseRobMe.com!
  • Set a trap (Score:2, Redundant)

    by whoda (569082)

    I'm going to Greece for a week!
    I live at 123 Main street anytown, USA
    Bye everyone, I'm leaving now!
    (Don't really leave, sit just inside door with shotgun)
    ?
    Profit!

  • A little bit of common sense can go long way.. most of the people are not in their house during day-time.. umm when they leave their house for work..
    i don't think posting that you are out of your home for few hours is going to make much difference... the robbers have to make sure that your neighbors are also not at their home
    may be we can go one step ahead and make a website that does that too..

    in addition to XXX, three of their neighbors have also left their house
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:43AM (#31185142)

    Please try my ex-wife's house. That's where you'll find my stuff.

  • Last tweet, he's out eating breakfast. ttp:twittercomMikepruett [ttp]

    Domain name: PLEASESUEME.COM
    Administrative Contact:
    Pruett, Mike mlt@mltgroup.com
    4012 5th Place NW
    Rochester, MN 55901
    US
    507-281-3490

  • So really, this should be called "Please Rob Him".

  • by bbtom (581232) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:12AM (#31185644) Homepage Journal

    1. It needs to be "please burgle me". If you aren't at home, then you are being burgled, not robbed. A robbery is theft with violence or the threat of violence (at least in English law - Theft Act 1958 - it is). If nobody is at home, then nobody can be the victim of violence or the threat of violence. So your home is getting burgled - or, if you are an American, burglarized (what the hell kind of a word is that, right?).

    2. PleaseRobMe seems to be built around the premise that one home = one person. If you know where I live, please be assured that I am currently not at my home. But other people live where I live. Families exist. Flat sharing exists. Communal living exists. (Yeah, go and raid the kibbutz - I'm sure it'll be empty!) This may be true for Web 2.0 valleyboys. It's not true of the rest of the planet.

    That said, this kind of thing does show why most location-based services are stupidly designed. I have played around with a few of them, and the only one I'm a real big fan of is FireEagle. Sadly, it's been a bit neglected for business reasons - i.e. Yahoo! financial situation. What is great about FireEagle is you share you location with FireEagle, and they then share it with whatever services you want to share it with. So, I have the little iPhone app which updates FireEagle. FireEagle knows exactly where I am. Then there's a Facebook app which connects to FireEagle, but I don't necessarily have to let it broadcast my location if I don't want it to. Or I can only give a vague location - perhaps at a country or city level. I have it wired in to my SSH setup, so if I SSH in to my Linux box from certain places, it updates my location. Because it is a location broker, it can be updated in any way people think of, rather than having to use a specific application (say, for the iPhone) like FourSquare etc. do.

    This is useful as I can build applications that sit on top of it. One I have been meaning to build is a "remind me when I'm at X" app. So I could basically dump a string (SMS/tweet length) into a database with a broad location in it. It could check against my location and when they match, I could be reminded of X. Remember to buy ice cream when I'm at the supermarket - well, when I'm at the supermarket, I should get a text message saying to buy ice cream.

    Location-based services shouldn't be tied to devices but to people. This is what everyone gets wrong. They need really good granular privacy controls. They need a big "forget me" option. This is something Google Latitude doesn't have. There is no way I have found to tell Google Latitude "Hey, take me off the radar. I'm not anywhere anymore."

    When I have some time to build it, I'd love to build something like FireEagle but running on my servers and just for me. Location is too important, useful and fun to trust Google or Yahoo! or some venture-backed Valley startup with. But if you are building location-based services, look at FireEagle and learn.

  • Rob? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:25PM (#31190082) Journal

    I don't know who this Rob guy is or what he has in mind but I don't like the sound of it.

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