Remember phonebooks? You probably still have one in your house somewhere. Utilizing this user-friendly, accessible technology was simple: look up a person’s or business’s name and you now possess information like their phone number and home address.
Armed with said information, you could do all sorts of dastardly things, like send them flowers, awkwardly ask them out to a cup of coffee, or take your car in to get the oil changed.
Needless to say, it was a wild, evil time. Anyone could look up anyone, pretty much (if you knew the alphabet, of course).
Fortunately, we live in a much more secure, civilized era, where your living space is a secret to everyone. That is, besides anyone who can actually see the large structure on a public street.
An info-gathering website is trying to change all that.
WeKnowYourHouse.com uses Twitter, Google and other easily-accessed sites to reveal certain people’s homes.
What would be the point of a creepy, poorly-executed Big Brother site like this? Selling this information to burglars, grassroots organizers, or Jehovah Witnesses, perhaps?
The creators claim WeKnowYourHouse.com is an experiment. A Public Service Announcement, actually.
They say that they are trying to draw attention to how it easy it is to get information about people. They recommend never checking in at home.
How the site works is simple enough. The site searches the Twittersphere for any tweet with the word “home,” such as “I haven’t left my home in 4 days because I’m worried someone will find out where I live.”
It then tries to pinpoint the location where the tweet was posted using mobile apps (like FourSquare). Once this location is nailed down, the site uses Google Maps to get a streetview picture. Finally, the original tweet, the location (minus some crucial parts of the address), and the photo are all published on the site for the world to see.
After an hour, the site deletes all the data, calling the experiment a success.
Even though the site definitely teeters into creepy territory, it’s message is clear: it isn’t hard to find out pretty much exactly where you are when you say you are at home. Therefore, it might be best to avoid saying that.
Can the site be used for nefarious purposes? Maybe, but no more than those phonebooks gathering dust on your porch. Some experiments show the site doesn’t even work that well in aggregating every mention of the word “home,” but the creators would claim that isn’t the point.
But at least it gives people more reason to be scared about information that is freely available.