Please Rob Me - Why Using Twitter or Facebook Could See Your Insurance Go Up
by Editor, Web Wise Business (25 February 2010)
Last week saw the launch of controversial new website Please Rob Me, aimed at highlighting the dangers of telling people where you are, or more importantly, where you are not, using social media sites such as Twitter and Foursquare. Dangers which may soon affect users of such sites home insurance premiums.
The website, created by a group of Dutch developers, posts minute by minute updates on people who have indicated they are not at home, publishing a regularly updated stream of "opportunities" by monitoring activity on sites such as Twitter and Foursquare and then providing details on users who have mentioned phrases such as "just leaving", or "going to", including the time they left (or the time at which they posted their message) and their current geographic location.
Understandably, the website has created a stir with privacy campaigners, who have expressed outrage at the open creation of a tool "designed to assist criminals" in such a direct manner.
However, the three founders have denied such claims, suggesting that they were only attempting to highlight the dangers of the newest social networking craze - geo-location tagging and constant publically available information updates.
They say that they were merely pointing out that users of Twitter and Foursquare openly share information online, information such as precise location and what they are doing, which previously people would be hesitant to do due to the associated risks of doing so.
Risks which could soon see up to a 10% rise in social networking site users' home insurance premiums according to sources at price comparison service Confused.com.
Darren Black, the head of home insurance at Confused.com, said "Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their information gathering, even using Google Earth and Streetview to plan their burglaries with military precision. Insurance providers are starting to take this into account when they are assessing claims and we may in future see insurers declining claims if they believe the customer was negligent."
With sites such as Please Rob Me being described by campaigners as a "one-stop-shop for burglars", it is certainly worth taking more care over the information you make available about yourself online.
At Web Wise Business, we have been discussing the issue of privacy online recently (as you can see in the video above) and have come up with the following advice to users of social networking websites:
1. Never post your home address or other personal information such as your home phone number on social networking sites.
2. If your using a private account for personal networking, use block or privacy features to stop your profile being visible to the general public and people you don't know or don't want to know.
3. Turn off location-based services on Twitter and Facebook unless you absolutely need to use them or know someone is at home.