Today the social media feathers are flying about Please Rob Me, a snarky Web service snatching the functionality of Foursquare to alert lazy kleptos of vacant homes when a Foursquare user checks in elsewhere. Get your hands off the panic button, people. The site is using humor to alert people with Internet amnesia to the dangers of forgetting that some doors should remain closed.
I thought I'd net out for you, from my observations today and in life in general, people who shouldn't use location awareness to augment their lives.
People who come into work tan after being "out of the office sick": If you're already dishonest, the last thing you need to be doing is updating an app that outs your every location. It's safe to say that social media channels themselves and the recent surge of location awareness tools don't align with the goals of liar types. If you've got something to hide, buyer beware, and don't blame the tool when your boss says: "I had no idea swine flu caused healthy, flushed skin and pukka shells. "
People on parole: Actually, a great application of location awareness could be in prison culture, one of my favorite cultures around. Parole officers run ragged with so many clients could simply see where their people are checking in. Maybe even have a parole Tweetup at Crocodile Lounge in NYC for some free pizza! However, if you qualify for the personality above and you're on parole, it's probably not a good idea to check into Croc Lounge when you're supposed to be at community service.
People in the witness protection program: Never assume something is too obvious. The fact that people are tweeting shock at their location posted online as being a location in reality is evidence of Captain Obvious not having everyone's ears.
People with stalkers: Hey, guess what? The Internet translates into reality. You went through the effort to get that restraining order -- why would you throw it all away by posting your exact location to your Twitter, Tumblr, facebook, etc.? Just call your stalker and tell him/her where to meet you and supply the weapons -- it's practically the same.
Stalkers: Guess what, stalkers? Your victim is going to know you're around when you publicly tweet, "I unlocked the Too Close for Comfort Badge! @ your closet w/@you" Kick it old school.
People who still post LOOK AT ME I'M NAKED AND WASTED!!! photos on Facebook without toggling privacy settings: This behavior denotes a person's inability to understand boundaries, implications of lewd acts on a minor, and job security. Maybe I'm conservative, but if I owned a business, I wouldn't want to see my employees carousing under the "bender" badge every night. This behavior also indicates a user's ignorance of others' privacy as well. So if you aren't this type of person, you should definitely unfriend this person, as it's only a matter of time before that picture of you pretending to hump livestock in Maine is going to be public property.
People who hate people: If you hate people, the last thing that will bring you joy is giving others the ability to find you. This will lead you to blame a tool like Foursquare rather than looking inside yourself and realizing that this wasn't the fit solution to your problem. It's ok, we all fail sometimes.
People who like people, but inspire ire in others: Is there a "ghost goodbye" badge on Foursquare? If there is, this person would earn it when, upon check-in, all guests previously checked in at the same location have now checked into the bar next door. This will create an unfortunate experience for the user with the tool -- but again, it isn't the tool's fault, it's the user's own failure to notice that while they think they're awesome, no one else does.
People who do something because everyone else is doing it: We all want to be accepted somewhere -- this is human nature. The beauty of maturing (slightly) is self-awareness and confidence in genuine interests. When you don't care who approves, then you're always accepted, even if it's in the basement with a pile of paper clips. The early adopter community is a vocal one, and social media amplifies this to peer pressure status, even if they aren't your true peers. Regardless of what anyone else says, if you choose not to join the love fest of the moment, it doesn't mean you don't "get it." It just means it's not right for you. Now, obviously, if you're in the mobile, social, social gaming, mobile marketing, socially mobile, marketsocmobily space you should make yourself a near expert with as many of these tools as possible so you're not the dingdong in the room, but that is not the role of EVERYONE.
People who just can't say no, aka feel obligated to accept all friend/follow requests: It's OK to say, "you know, I won't allow Chauncey McCracken to see where I check in because he's a very aggressive PR type and I know he'll show up and pitch me about social media dinner rolls." I like to use weddings as an example because there's a cost per head and once you attach money to something, everyone gets it. Imagine all of those followers and friends coming to your wedding. Only the wedding is your life and the cost per head is the amount of people who can see you in the shower. I don't accept anyone on Foursquare because I don't want anyone to know that I dine nightly in the turtle pond in Central Park.
Now for the much shorter list of "People who should use location awareness powered tools and such": People who understand what it means to look before you leap, people who read the fine print, people who understand privacy settings and know how to use them, people who are comfortable denying "friend" and "follow" requests, people who understand the benefits that come with letting go a little bit of privacy, but also get the cons that come with not knowing just what you're giving up. People with a sense of humor.
And to quote the Please Rob Me "why" page: "It gets even worse if you have "friends" who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address... on the Internet... Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That's right, slap them across the face."
Be smart. Be safe. Have fun.