Friday, July 03, 2009

Home Tweet Home: Does Social Networking While on Vacation Compromise Your Safety?

As noted here last month, I took the plunge and started using Twitter. I've also done plenty of blog posts--with pictures, in recent years--while out of town. But is this sort of behavior a bad idea? Some security experts think so:
Like a lot of people who use social media, Israel Hyman and his wife, Noell, went on Twitter to share real-time details of a recent trip. Their posts said they were "preparing to head out of town," that they had "another 10 hours of driving ahead," and that they "made it to Kansas City."

While they were on the road, their home in Mesa, Ariz., was burglarized. Hyman has an online video business called, with 2,000 followers on Twitter. He thinks his Twitter updates tipped the burglars off.

"My wife thinks it could be a random thing, but I just have my suspicions," he said. "They didn't take any of our normal consumer electronics." They took his video editing equipment.
Yeah, that could certainly have happened for a number of reasons. But the experts do have some good points:
Most people wouldn't leave a recording on a home answering machine telling callers they're on vacation for a week, and most people wouldn't let mail or newspapers pile up while they were away. But users of social media think nothing of posting real-time vacation photos on Facebook, or sending out automatic e-mail messages that say, "I'm out of the country for a week."
This is true. But it seems especially unlikely to be burglarized by your Facebook friends, especially if they're old friends from high school or college whom you've known forever. Twiiter might be a different story, since anyone can sign up to follow you without your having to approve it first.

I think the jury's out on this one; some people are likely to be more vigilant after reading this article, while others are a bit more carefree:
"I don't worry about it," said David McCauley of Boise, a social-media consultant who posts a running update of his activities for his Facebook friends. McCauley also communicates constantly on Twitter, where anyone can sign up to read your posts.

"If somebody really wanted to rob me, they could rob me whether they're Tweeting about it or not," McCauley said. "Most people who want to follow you [on Twitter] are typically not thieves, or they're not looking to take your stuff; they just want to follow you and understand you."
I'm not sure how I feel about all this; I guess we'll have to see what happens the next time I go out of town.

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