Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Foursquare can help people steal your stuff. PS - Want to buy some privacy insurance?

When I first got access to the Internet, my parents were quite paranoid about me talking about when we'd be going on vacation, and when people weren't home. I'm not sure if they're still paranoid about it, but I admit I think about their concerns every time I mention that I'm in another city on Twitter.

However, I've never seen anyone get that point across so nicely as which uses Foursquare and Twitter to build a nice list of people who aren't home right now. Combine that with a little extra observation to find out where their homes are, and I bet you'll probably also find a wealth of other information about the things they own that are worth stealing. Handy for all your thieving needs!

I wonder how many people will rethink using Foursquare after seeing this. I'm guessing not actually that many, though. Just like Facebook, a few people will be appalled, but more will be thinking "eh, that'll never happen to me." My supervisor asserts that people will only really care about privacy when someone from Google goes completely bonkers and uses the information at their disposal to kill someone. But I am not sure even that would be enough: they're already risking people's safety with gaffes in new products, and while that gets people upset, I know I haven't closed my Google accounts or turned off the phone that's transmitting my location data to them all the time...

Mind you, I know how easy it is to break in to my house and I haven't upgraded my locks either, just bought insurance and backed up my digital assets off-site. I know how insecure my credit card is, yet I'm counting on the law to keep me from being liable if it's abused. And you can buy insurance on top of that for identity theft.

So sure, I'm happy to hear that the Canadian privacy commission wants to know more about Google Buzz. But what I'm really wondering is how to sell insurance for privacy. I'd make a killing in this market!

(Addendum: If only I could figure out how to make that work... Can't you just imagine a team of lawyers descending upon your mother to do damage control when your friends' drunken antics get leaked through Facebook?)

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