Please Burgle Me

by MarianneShih

This year, Foursquare Day (April 16tth) marks the first official social media holiday in New York, NY and at least twelve other states. With over 7 million registered users, myself included, foursquare allows avid users to gain status by becoming mayors of venues and unlocking badges. Users can also see who else has checked-in to a location, which can lead to new social connections. Occasionally, users can also check-in for special discounts which Mayor Michael Bloomberg notes in his positive observations about foursquare.

 However, foursquare is not all fun and serendipity. PleaseRobMe, which publicized irresponsible use of Twitter, chastised us for openly giving away our location so that those with malicious intent could burgle homes (robberies include threatening or using force on the victim, making PleaseBurgleMe a more accurate title). While foursquare provides a Privacy Grid that allows users to modify their settings, anyone who makes the mistake of designating the wrong person as a “friend” defeats the purposes of their enhanced settings.

Possibly related statistics:

  • In eight out of ten rape cases, the victim knew the perpetrator. (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000)
  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims knew their attacker; 34.2% were family members and 58.7% acquaintances. Only seven percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim. (Sexual Assault of Young Children 2000)


I am not so enthused by the idea of location-based services. While I am not an advocate for living in constant fear, I can hardly say that new social connections courtesy of foursquare’s services are worth the risk. I don’t believe that I am in great need of serendipitous run-ins instigated by location-based services, nor do I think I need the extra vulnerability that increases my chances of running into those suffering from psychotic disorders. We’re already being tracked by devices we carry of our own accord (see: Malt Spitz). Why make it even more public? Again – does oversharing really exist?