If you're a reader of ZDnet or TechCrunch, you already know about PleaseRobMe.com - a new site that supposedly publishes geolocation information from Twitter to tell the world that your house is currently empty, because you just boarded a flight for London, or checked into a hotel in Singapore.
I've just been in both these places. Like many folks in business, I have to spend a reasonable amount of time on the road. The idea that my Tweets could lead a burglar to visit a home only occuplied by my wife and baby is not something I had previously considered. I have also spent much of my working life chasing computer viruses and other nasties, and inventing new technologies to keep people safe.
And now up pops a site that provides - via a handy form-based interface, no less - a list of "empty houses" that burglars can attack, safe in the knowledge that their occupants are absent? To quote the site:
The goal of this website is to raise some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc.
Surely this cannot be. I'm guessing this site is some kind of microsite designed for a different purpose. A score of 400 "out of the box" indicates the people behind it know what they are doing, from the standpoint of Internet marketing. The lead story in Google News? Mentions in all of the leading tech blogs?
PleaseRobMe.com's stated aim is to make people aware of the dangers of geolocation. I believe the real aim of the site will only become known in the next few days, as the "mainstream media" begins swallowing the bait and starts the inevitable push of users to the site.
If I'm wrong, and these guys don't shout "April Fool" and pull back the curtains to reveal some fabulous geolocation blocking tool (or movie/TV show/gaming site) a few days from now, that would be rather foolhardy of the site's owners - because they are going to lose a lot of money the first time they get called into a civil court to answer the charge that they aided burglars in robbing empty houses.
Call me an optimist, but for now, I'm betting this is a marketing play pure and simple, and looking forward to a lesson in the power of web marketing. Let's hope for that outcome.
Heardable's co-founder and CTO, John Sharp, is also the founder of invitation-based funding platform Hatcher, the former President and CTO of the leading Asia healthcare portal DocDoc, and a veteran entrepreneur, inventor, and investor. John is based in Singapore.