Recent crime news from New Hampshire highlights the dangers of posting your location via Facebook Places or status updates.
Police have arrested three men allegedly part of a burglary ring targeting Facebook users, according to NECN. They say the men targeted people when they weren’t home, based on the locations they posted on their Facebook profiles. Police recovered more than $100,000 worth of property, which they say came from 50 break-ins.
It’s not clear whether the locations came from ordinary status updates or from people checking into the newly launched Facebook Places location service. (See update below). It’s also not clear how the victims had configured their Facebook privacy settings. However, the incident does highlight the potential problem with posting your location on Places or any other location check-in service – wherever you happen to check in, it’s a safe bet that you’re not at home.
A site called Please Rob Me raised awareness of the problem of checking in publicly on services like Foursquare. Those potential problems are only magnified when it comes to Places because of the 500-million user base, which would present a juicy target for any would-be burglar.
Please do take the time to read these strategies for how to use Facebook Places safely – and pass it on to your friends and family. Personally I also try to keep my street address as private as possible as well. Although this is not wholly in my control, I would never put my home address in my Facebook profile, for example. I also refrain from publicly posting the town or neighborhood I live in.
UPDATE: A Facebook spokeswoman has been in touch to confirm that the burglaries did not involve Places in this instance. However, our advice to use caution and common sense when publishing your location on the internet is applicable, whether it’s through Places or not.
The Facebook spokeswoman said: “We’ve been in contact with the Nashua police, and they confirmed that they while they have an ongoing investigation and have already made a number of arrests, the only Facebook link was that one of those arrested had a Facebook friend who posted about leaving town in the near future (which is why they believe that home was targeted) and it had nothing to do with Facebook Places. The police confirmed that the other burglaries had nothing to do with Facebook altogether.”