How to rob somebody using Google Buzz

Everybody is either outraged or amused by a new site called PleaseRobMe.com. Google Buzz is worse!

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Google Buzz is way more dangerous than PleaseRobMe because you search for targets only in the area where you physically are. Almost all the PleaseRobMe people are in far-off lands.

It's also worth pointing out that burglary is just one of the many crimes that could be committed using Google Buzz when people broadcast their locations. Another is any number of con scams.

For example, a con artist could find a person's post on Google Buzz, find the restaurant or whatever, read the profile, then approach that person with a con, armed with knowledge of name, occupation, employer, interests, activities and possibly even contacts. Such information is what cons are made of, and they normally require a lot of work to uncover. Buzz makes it easy.

The action item for you and me is: Don't broadcast your location to the public via Google Buzz!

The action item for Google is: Fix this now before the crime stories hit and further damage public trust. (I don't know what the fix is, but it could involve broadcasting only to followers, or at least a warning to posters that providing too much information could compromise personal security.)

UPDATE: Today there's a story in the Telegraph quoting an insurance expert who says insurance premiums could go up for people who use Buzz and other social networks. Darren Black is quoted as saying: "I wouldn't be surprised if, as social media grow in popularity and more location-based applications come to fore, insurance providers consider these in their pricing of an individual's risk. We could see rises of up to 10pc for people who use these sites. 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."

Mike Elgan is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. Connect with Mike here: elgan.com

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