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Saturday, February 20, 2010

PleaseRobMe spotlights online privacy problems

CBC News
A website that purports to reveal when people aren't home - and are therefore vulnerable to being robbed - has attracted international attention.

The website,, was created in just four hours and
 is based on publicly posted Twitter messages, according to its founders. The site pulls in Twitter feeds that feature FourSquare, an online game where people mention their current location.

Boy Van Amstel, one of the site's Dutch developers, said he and two
 friends set up PleaseRobMe to illustrate just how foolish some people are with the amount of personal information they share online.

"It started with me and a friend looking at our Twitter feeds and seeing more and more Foursquare posts," he told the BBC. "I don't think they were aware of how much they were sharing."

The site doesn't actually fully enable robbery - potential burglars would also need to know a Twitter user's home address, for one - but it does point out how fast and loose people are with their details online.

"The point we're getting at is that not long ago it was questionable to share your full name on the internet," he said. "We've gone past that point by 1,000 miles."

The site has received press coverage around the world and the founders are now looking to pair up with a foundation, agency or company that deals with online privacy.


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