Another make-a-point website has recently launched, and subsequently gone down over the weekend. For those who may have missed it, is called We Know Your House and was profiled by a few sites including Gizmodo. The WKYH website describes itself as being “another social networking privacy experiment.” Simply put, they take information from social networks and turn it into mapped locations of where people are living.
Eric Limer over at Gizmodo offered a good run down of the site and closed with a bit of advice that well, sort of feels old and stale. No offense to Eric, I just wonder how bad this actually is? He stated that “if you don’t want anyone to be able to find out where you live on whim, your best bet is going to be to play it extremely safe with location data.” Of course, the playing it safe bit probably means that you should not check-in at certain places so you can avoid revealing bits that *may* be better kept secret. Limer goes on to make the point that “if these guys can do it as a “social experiment” anyone else can do it for much worse reasons.” I suspect that he is referring to someone tracking you in an effort to break-in and steal your stuff. Or worse yet, target you, as opposed to your belongings.
We should also point out that the WKYH website similar advice, stating;
“Our advice is don’t check in at your own home, whether using Twitter with locations, Foursquare, Google Latitude, or any other location-aware service, because you’re telling the world exactly where you live.”
But really, what are you giving up as a result of checking in at your specific address. Or checking in at other places. Is is really that dangerous? Sure, it probably does place you more at risk. Or at the very least, more at risk as compared to those who don’t. I am not going to argue that point. But my point here is that social network data is just one of many ways for people to get information about you. Simply put, there are plenty of publicly available ways people can get your specific location. Sure, social check-ins make it easier, but lets face it — if someone wants to get you — they are going to get you.
Some other points worth noting here, I have heard arguments where you should not check-in that you are away from your home (because that means your home is empty and a potential target). Or that you should not share images of stuff from within your home because that is giving crooks a look at potential items that can be stolen. Or even scarier, pictures of your children (or other loved) ones because they could become targets.
I am sure most of the GadgeTell readers have seen these stories, not only from other tech blogs, but from the mainstream media where they come off as horror stories warning you against the evil dangers that lurk. I wonder if people once worried about the yellow pages giving your home address? Not to mention the fact that parents used to send their kids out to play (in the open and in the public eye) with little concern of something bad happening.
Just some thoughts, just because someone checks-in at a place outside of their home, that does not mean that house is empty. And on top of that, we live in a digital age so even if someone is outside of the home — that does not mean the home is not protected. We still have the age-old dogs and nosy neighbors. We also have alarm systems that have been around for quite a while. But in todays world we have plenty of items that may even be better. Items that almost anyone can buy and install such as the Dropcam. Not to mention, even simpler items such as the Belkin WeMo with ifttt (if this then that) support. And for those going back to the kids, many are carrying phones these days, phones that can be tracked.
Bottom line here, if someone wants to target someone because they have something personal against them — they are going to get them, social-check-ins will just help to make it easier. But otherwise, social check-ins can have some benefit and I suspect that many will keep using them. The moral of the story here, maybe would start thinking about social check-ins and geo-locating and being tracked as part of life and something we should live with and accept as opposed to being something to constantly worry about.
Thoughts? Fire away in the comments…