Summertime is traditionally when most people take their annual vacations, and since the social media explosion, more aspects of a given person’s vacation will end up as photos on Flickr, or “wish you were here” messages on Facebook.
I’m a big fan of openness (with the obvious exception of my use of a pseudonym on this site), and so I’m a little sad, though not surprised, to see at least one victim of a burglary who suspects his tweeting about being on vacation is the cause of his trouble.
“We had mentioned that we were going out of town for an extended period and even Twittered about the trip as we drove for three days,” he told an Arizona television station. While he was gone, video editing equipment was stolen from his home.
My first reaction was to assume that the man in the story has some people following him on Twitter who aren’t exactly friendly. But then I remembered that anybody can do a search on Twitter for a phrase like “vacation” and find results like these:
Then, if you can cross-reference a likely victim with their address found online, and you have criminal tendencies, then you know which house to burglarize.
Additionally, many Twitter apps (and possibly for other services) have the option of finding your current location and looking nearby for specific criteria.
Take an inventory of which of your information can be found online easily. Some starting points:
- Is your username the same as your real name?
- Are you and your address listed in the phone book?
- Does your wireless router know where it’s located? Does it broadcast that location?
- Is your profile public? Do you want to keep it that way?
- Are you on LinkedIn? How much of that profile is public?
- and so on…
You may decide that a simple solution would be to keep the vacation secret until you get home, but remember, even if you decide to avoid the magic word “vacation” in your own online updates, your friends may inadvertently be helping potential burglars:
Going on a trip? Keep tweets discreet, Kathleen Pender, San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 2009
Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published July 7, 2009.