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There has been a lot of talk of late about Criminal Minds using location based networking sites like Foursquare to figure out when people are not at home so that they can take advantage of that fact and rob you blind. Foursquare has responded to this in a blog post.

Before I go on, the idea behind services like Foursquare is to give you and your friends new ways of exploring wherever you are by leaving tips and showing each other what’s good to do (it’s also really good advertizing).

Many people have chimed in on this subject but how many actually use the services, teach others how to do it (safely) and actually work in a Police Department too?!

Yes, giving out your personal information online can be dangerous. I preach that people should always be aware of what information they’re giving out online, who they’re giving it to and how they’re giving it.

The ruckus really started when the web site reared its head. The idea behind is that it tells you when people are checking in my checking their Twitter streams, it changes some wording and tells you that they left home and that they’re somewhere else.
Already I bucked the system by having ‘Please Rob Me’ tell me I wasn’t at home by checking in at my home.

This is no different to being safe anywhere online and offline. It’s about common sense.

When you go on vacation do you leave a massive sign on your house saying “We’re not here and won’t be back for 2 weeks” – do you leave a message on your answering machine or voicemail to the effect?

Telling others where you are:

Yes, if you check in and say “I’m in scary dark alley with a pocket full of $100 bills” you might run the risk of meeting someone a little less than friendly – however, a very small risk.
Consider this, by the time you check in and other people read your tweet or facebook post you’re likely to have moved on from said alley, unless you’re somewhere public in which case the likelihood of you being forced to part ways with your pocket full of cash goes down some.
Also, if you’re in a scary alley and are carrying large amounts of cash DON’T CHECK IN! Don’t get online and say “I’m home alone and my locks don’t work, all I have for protection is my bathrobe”.

Like I said above, the idea behind checking in is so that your friends (and others) know about your hobbies, what companies, businesses, stores, etc. etc you frequent, where is good to go and where is good to be and to earn points and become the mayor of places. Also to let others know that you got somewhere safely.
Checking in anywhere isn’t mandatory. It’s completely optional and you should never put yourself or others at risk by doing it.

DO NOT CHECK IN AT YOUR HOME ADDRESS. It’s rarely a good idea to give out your home address on any social networking site.
“But wait” I hear you say “earlier in this post you said you checked in a home” Yes, I did. I checked in on the 3000 block of Main Street in Munhall. There are a few homes on this block, I may or may not be at any of them. Take your chances.

Other people safely check in on their street or even in their town.

Do you have your name on your house or mailbox? then it might be a good idea just to check in in your town if you have to check in at home. Common sense.

Telling others where you’re not:

This is the premise behind, the wording is as such”Andy Quayle left home and…”  they’re assuming rather a lot. They’re assuming that you’ live alone, they’re assuming that you have your address easily accessible, they’re assuming that you’re rather helpless, useless and fragile. Heck, in my case, they’re assuming I have anything to take!

Pretty much the same as above still applies. Don’t check in and say “stuck in traffic, I hope my great masters paintings will be ok while the alarms are off”.
While you might not make it overtly public (and good for you), your address is probably out there somewhere and given a couple of clues it’s relatively easy to find.

Don’t invite people to your home while you’re not there.

Are you worth targeting? Do you really stick out there like a sore thumb to the criminal community, are they watching for when you’re not home for some reason?

Essentially, it really does come down to common sense. Will services like Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook (or a combination of the three) have your home ransacked? It’s possible, anything is possible. I don’t believe it will lead to a rise in burglaries, not just yet anyway and no more than anything else online does.

Do you have questions about online safety and privacy? feel free to drop a comment or email me.

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Author: Andy Quayle

Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
Known globally as a willing source for tech news and views, Andy takes great pride in consultation and education.

Should his schedule permit, Andy is available to help you with your SEO and Web Analytics needs.