Neither Mashable nor pleaserobme.com are fresh on the scene with the common sense notion that criminals are just now getting active in social networking. Criminals have been using social networking sites as a form of communication in their criminal enterprises as well as a place to cultivate job leads (crime leads for those who did not understand that statement).
We are all adults here and common sense should, should tell you that there are a lot of “creepy” people on the world wide web (even if you can’t see them). Have you ever bothered to turn on the “who’s near me” or “location” function on any social networking app for your iPhone or on the computer? You will be surprised how many people pop up near you when you are online. I have done this in Tampa and thousands of people were near me and online at the same time. I guess because all of these people are on Twitter and Facebook that they are like me (law abiding citizens) and okay, WRONG!
So what, who cares who is near me! Okay, lets do some deductive reasoning. How many burglars work 9 to 5 jobs? answer 0 (valid). How many sex predators have been cured? answer 0 (valid). How many of the people viewing my location preferences could be criminals or seeking to be involved in criminal activity? answer everyone who can view your location or status update (valid). Don’t be lulled into thinking that because you cannot see a criminal that they don’t exist. You can say to yourself that “that will never happen to me,” but ladies don’t put a status update at 2:00am while at a bar and think you are safe. Being a former policeman I can tell you a rapist is looking for a “crime of opportunity” and hanging out in an entertainment district for intoxicated females is a no brainer, let alone “here I am over here” status updates.
The real bother about the pleaserobme.com website is the so called “public service” value this website is lending to the web community. They tout that what they are really doing is a public service, but from a law enforcement perspective their website offers “zero public service” usefulness. Yes, the user updates are on available on Twitter, but to RSS feed catch them into a website and head the feed category “new opportunities” and “recent empty houses” is pretty disgusting. Mashable bought into this websites intent and lauded them, or at least appeared neutral to the websites purpose. Their purpose “The goal of this website is to raise some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc. Because all this site is, is a dressed up Twitter search page. Everybody can get this information.” If everybody can get it, then why provide it to the criminal and make their criminal activities easier to research? Why name your website pleaserobme.com, which shows as #2 for “Rob Me” search parameters in Google? I can’t seem to connect the dots on this one.
Eventually a crime is going to occur and the criminal will confess that he used pleaserobme.com to commit a burglary, worse a rape, and worse yet a child’s murder. I guess pleaserobme.com will use a public relations campaign as follows: “this information already exists on the web and we in no way encourage criminal activities by posting peoples status updates on the web. The fact that a criminal used our website to cultivate a victim for a heinous crime is unfortunate.” (lawsuit) As new media unfolds opportunities to exploit others information go unchecked because there is no law designed to deal with these new issues. Personally, I feel the owners of pleaserobme.com are just trying to make a buck and they really don’t care if anyone gets hurt in the process. CM