Posted by Ana Etxebarria, February 2010

The world of social networks is evolving so quickly that it’s difficult to stay up-to-speed.

One of the latest hot sites is Foursquare, 4sq. As incredible as it might seem, this is nothing more than a website in which people say where they are. And that’s it. Believe it or not, this website is becoming more popular by the day. People use it to say where they are at every moment, to criticize or suggest places to go and things to do there.
Now, this doesn’t really seem very interesting; at least not to me anyway. In fact, as a Twitter user, it seems quite absurd to be continually reading that someone is in one of the terminals of JFK or having a beer at the Fremont Brewing Co in Seattle.

The attraction seemingly lies in the fact that the more frequently you post where you are, the more points you earn. If you have been in a place more times than anyone else, you become “the mayor” until someone takes the title from you. In addition, points can be exchanged for credits and coupons which are valid for coffees, ice cream or stays in hotels…

Of course the flip side to all this is that anyone can tell where a person is at any time.  If you’re out having a beer in a bar, it’s obvious that… you’re not home! So, all your efforts to make it look like your house is occupied when you go on vacation will be rather pointless if you’re telling the whole world that you are in Florida…

And with this in mind, there is another social website whose popularity is growing daily, Pleaserobme. This site replicates the posts of people who comment on 4sq  revealing where they are at any time with a view to a highlighting how absurd and dangerous this site is. Hence the name, “Please Rob Me!!!” . please_rob_me_blog_pandasecurity5

To get an idea of the quantity of traffic we are talking about, I’ve just done a search for 4sq on Twitter and in five minutes I’ve counted 54 posts with people saying where they are!!! You can see for yourselves here:

Fortunately, there has been some late news (18 Feb): “Twitter has removed the account of PleaseRobMe”.

This is the age-old contradiction between how we behave in places where people know us and how we act where we are not known. We are less inhibited and more trusting when dealing with complete strangers -possibly on the other side of the globe-; as if the distance somehow keeps us safe. However, globalization of information is not just about sending data or information to people far away. Our neighbors, even those with ill intent, are part of this new abstract global village.

It’s certainly something worth thinking about… wouldn’t you agree?