There’s a tremendous amount of hand-wringing around the concept of Facebook updates, location aware apps, and the potential for thieves to find out you’re not home and go in to steal your stuff.
In the years I’ve been covering social media, I remember specifically two incidents where this has actually occurred. But it hasn’t stopped the reticence around using services like Foursquare and Facebook Places to participate in social media, because people are infinitely bad at parsing actual risk. For you to be a victim of this sort of crime, on Facebook at least, one of your friends would have to be a potential felon. Not too out of the realm of possibility. Said felon or felons would then have to see your update, within the timeframe you are away from your home, assemble the tools necessary to do a B&E, and be willing to break into someone’s house and steal stuff.
Could this happen? Yes. It could happen. I could also fall down my porch stairs and break my neck when I go out to get milk later, or my mail could get stolen, or my kids could wander into the path of a car while crossing the street if they go out to ride their bikes. It seems that people are intent on assuming any possible risk is not worth taking, which is the idea behind a security company that will update Facebook for you when you’re not at home and make it look like your house is totally not robbable right now.
My skepticism about the need for such a service is multi-faceted. Yes, you can pay someone to update Facebook, but what are the chances of people noticing your silence on the social network? You could… I don’t know… just not mention you’re on vacation until you get back? That would work. You could also make up your own fake Facebook statuses and just make sure it doesn’t say “updated from a Totally Sick Hotel in Vegas.” Or you could even spend the money you would have spent on such a service on something that will actually make your life safer, like condoms or fresh produce or a hands-free smartphone headset.
But what tripped off my “this is so dumb, this is really dumb, for real” sensor was the scarelore about social media use and insurance rates. Logistically, what the company’s head is claiming is impossible:
Precreate Solutions’ director, Gary Jackson, says that insurance companies are beginning to take notice of the higher-than-average risk that social network buffs pose to their books, claiming “It’s getting to the point now when insurance firms are going charge higher premiums for social media users.” We’re not quite sure about that, since it would mean sifting through literally hundreds of millions of users to match names with accounts. Still, the danger of posting your vacation plans is real, and it’s always a good idea to be non-specific about when, and for how long, you’ll be away from home.
While Yahoo still urges caution about away-from-home Facebook status updates, humans have been known to leave their domiciles, sometimes overnight, far predating the internet and Facebook. The chances you will be robbed, raped, assaulted or stripped of your XBox in the absence of mitigating conditions are so slim it’s really not worth debating. Nor is it worth paying someone for such an asinine “service” that feeds into every misconception about social media.
Do you have any horror stories to prove me wrong?