Please Burglarize Me!

March 8, 2012

Communications, Family, Security

unlocked door

Think back to grade school or middle school for a minute. Do you remember the “Kick Me!” prank? You know, the one where you tried to subtly affix a sign to the back of a friend that said “Kick Me!” and had an arrow pointing to the unsuspecting person’s rear end?

The joke seldom, if ever, worked, but it was fun nonetheless. We all had a laugh trying to “get” someone with it.

Those days are long gone now. I’m much older and that kind of juvenile behavior is less appreciated by my contemporaries.

Instead, many people prefer to place signs on their own backs. Ok, I’m speaking metaphorically when I say that but it is almost that bad.

A Wealth of Information

The internet can be a truly wonderful thing. In just a few minutes, you can find a wealth of information about most any given topic. Need to remove a stuck wheel? It’s only a few clicks away. Want to catch up on the latest political news or find a reputable mechanic in your town? The right keywords in your favorite search engine will provide what you need nearly instantly. You can even see and talk with Grandma who lives half-way around the world?

But there is a insidious and dangerous trend creeping into our lives through the internet. Giving away too much information.

Who Wants My Social Security Number?

Community sites such as FaceBook, Google+, and LinkedIn, among others, ask for quite a bit of personal information. They want to know where you went to high school, where you’ve worked, and your religious and political leanings. They want know your kids’ names, your socio-economic background, and who your friends are.

This is not new. FaceBook’s prying into our personal lives and sharing that with advertisers has made the mainstream media’s news for years now. The same is true for Google’s tendency to sift through our emails and collect our search terms so they can proffer more targeted ads and sell our “aggregated” information.

We freely give this information away so that we can better “connect” with old friends and make new acquaintances.

But I’ve become more and more aware of this over the past year.

Hey Look Everybody! I’m Not Home

I'm not home, come on inI’m fortunately that my job doesn’t require me to live out of a suitcase. Sure I occasionally travel for work, but for the most part I get to stay home with my family. That’s nice. I used to travel regularly but I’ve gotten that out of my system and these days I much prefer to say home.

I do, however, attend several conferences each year. It’s a good opportunity to learn information in my given field and to catch up with friends from around the nation and world. I do enjoy that.

Often conference attendees will twitter to coordinate activities. “Anyone up for dinner at Toucan Sam’s tonight after the conference?” or “I’m singing Karaoke with Bill and Sheila at Milli Vanilli’s on 3rd Ave.” There is a lot of banter back and forth among friends and we get to keep up with the groups’ activities.

I used to do that. But these days, I tend to just read rather than post. I no longer tweet about my location or plans. I don’t use FourSquare or use the “check-in” feature on FaceBook. I’m more conscience of the information that I make available to the world.

Why? Let me ask you this. Would you answer your cellphone and tell a complete stranger that you wouldn’t be home for the next three days? No? Well how about this? Would you place a sign in your front yard that said your kids were home alone for the evening? Of course not.

That’s what you’re doing when you share information with the world using the internet.

Get Rid of the Kick Me Sign

When you provide personal information to social networking sites, you are in fact, giving away a great deal of information. It’s not hard for someone to infer quite a bit about you from the information you provide. They may want to steal your identity or come pay visit to you unexpectedly.

When you tell the world that you are half-way across the country for a conference that lasts all week, you are inviting every thief to your home. Or worse, that your wife and kids are home without you.

I love catching up with friends at conferences and I like sharing my experiences with those who care. But I love my family more, much more. So I’ve taken the “Kick Me” sign off of my own back and I no longer share private and privileged information with the world.

How about you? Do you share too much online? Or have you been burned by it? Or amOK I just paranoid?

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16 Comments on “Please Burglarize Me!”

  1. northernhomesteader Says:

    I agree completely. I rarely if ever post when I will be away on social media…. However, upon returning from a trip, then I am happy to post pic’s, etc….

    Of course, “out of office” email is on when I am away…however that just means I am not working…but it doesn’t mean I am not home….. 🙂

    Great post!


  2. Professor X Says:

    I’m just a humble computer science teacher, but I can tell you this much:

    A) The sheer number of students I have who are caught red handed doing something incredibly stupid/illegal/their parents are going to kill them is sky high. Its because they TELL THE WHOLE FREAKING WORLD ALL ABOUT IT!!!

    B) On a lesser scale, ditto for any number of adults I know

    C) Also on a large scale are the number of people of all ages who are surprised that I don’t have a Facebook account. “You’re a computer nerd..of COURSE you should be on Facebook!” I got tired of explaining to people why its simply idiotic to make some corporate fatcats rich by divulging aspects of your personal life that you wouldn’t cough up if you were being waterboarded at Gitmo.

    D) So I got a fake Facebook account. Good luck sending me any messages or friend requests. Good luck trading animals on “Farmville” (Fuck me, I grow food in real life, not on a virtual farm!)


    • Joe Says:

      Great point, Professor X. Along the same lines, more than one criminal has been caught by police after bragging about their crimes on FaceBook and Twitter.


  3. CeAdams Says:

    I am blessed that my husband works from home and keeps/schools the boys so the house is almost never empty. Even when it is we leave the lights on and there are enough cars in the driveway to confuse anyone.

    I don’t post our travel status on FB or any other media so it would be really hard to tell if we are in or out.


  4. Sam Creamer Says:

    Recently a friends daughter got married and she asked all her facebook friends to send their addressses and telepone numbers etc. to her on facebook. All these cute 20 somethins pictures started showing up with their addresses etc. When I asked they said no big deal. Really, I thought it was so sad that they hadn’t thought it out first.
    Bad stuff does happen. Think first!


    • Joe Says:

      Wow, Sam. I guess the younger 20-something generation has grown up with the social media and have very little concerns for the privacy they are giving up.


    • KrisB Says:

      Wow! Im still concidered a “young 20-something” and I would kill (not really but they would be in big trouble) if they pulled something like that!
      I hosted my sister’s baby shower this summer and we did do a large facebook posting. However, there was a note to “get ahold of one of us” about the addresses. I didnt want anyone to post something like that. All those that were invited already had a phone number for one of the 4 people involved in the overall planning so luckaly noone was stupid enough to pull that BS.
      And one of my best friends recently made a post on her facebook wall with her phone number (including area code) because she got a new phone and needed for everyone to get ahold of her so she could get their phone numbers again. Lets just say she was verbally chastised for the event.
      Some days my generation makes me sad due to their lack of forethought and awareness.


      • Joe Says:

        Unfortunately, it’s not just your generation, KrisB. A lot of the country is doing it.

        And astoundingly, the nefarious are even doing it, bragging about looting, etc. That allows the police to pull right up to their homes with probably cause.



  5. Evil Says:

    twitter I can understand…but FB you only have the people on your page you know. You also can set your settings to acquaintances for people who you “don’t know” so they only see what you want them to. FB can be used safely if you would take the time to read how to USE IT….



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