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Geotagging's Seasonal Danger: Burglary


I love the geotag concept—marking photos/Tweets and such with their Earth coordinates—and I think we'll all be doing it more in the future, for many reasons. I'm just worried we shouldn't be doing it this month. Thanks to bad guys.

What am I talking about? It's pretty simple to explain with this story about a notional youth called Jim.

Jim's a technology fan, kinda, but mostly just a regular guy who's just got a hoard of new electronic gizmos of all types as Christmas gifts. True to his connected-life/social-media form, Jim's Tweeted and Facebooked his enthusiasm for his new Canon DSLR, his shiny PS3, and his fab new home theatre sound system to all his pals and the world. Some of this data will have given away exactly where is home is, and his profile may even carry a picture of Jim happily holding the new gear. Then Jim departs for an extended sales shopping trip, and Tweets about it: "Here I am stuck in a traffic jam, will be here for hours before I even get to the stores!"
Enter Slugger into the story. Slugger's a bad guy, with a penchant for forcing locks, smashing windows and entering homes that don't belong to him. He rarely leaves empty handed. Slugger's also tech-savvy too, and like many burglars, he's scoped out some prospective targets before he hits them—only this time he's done it digitally. Slugger's been waiting for Jim to leave. He lurks nearby, sees the recognizable face of Jim as the guy hops into his car, and then waits to learn where Jim is thanks to some digital location leak. Then he lobs a handy brick through the window, and voilà!

You see what I mean? Burglaries at Christmas are not an uncommon phenomenon, and make perfect sense if you think about all that lovely new loot—possibly even conveniently in its box—lying about your home. It's such a risk that the U.K. government released a security advisory video about it this year. And a quick Google reveals gift-related thefts in Tacoma, San Jacinto, CA,  and New Zealand that all happened in the last few days.

And then there's GDGT—the fabulous new gadget-info-social-net mashup. But those "Just added the Nintendo Wii to my Have List" messages that its users are busy streaming out onto the net might be the perfect invitation for digitally-connected crims, no?

I'm not scaremongering, and I'm totally behind the idea of social networking, geotweeting and the rest of the works. There's no evidence that burglars are doing this yet. But there's no evidence they're not either. I'm just saying maybe you should be a leeetle bit cautious with your geotweeting and Facebooking this week.