As we’ve seen throughout this course, people continue to find novel ways to use online marketing and social media – from Facebook birthday posts as a way to promote donations to charity, to celebrities and scientists using Reddit AMAs as a way to promote their work. One unexpected, and very unfortunate application of social media that I have come across is of burglars using Facebook and Instagram as a way to find their next target.
Charlotte Parnaby in Social Media: A Burglar’s Best Friend and Maggie Winterfeldt in Over 78% of Burglars Are Using Social Media to Find Their Targets have reported on studies in the United Kingdom and the United States which found that a number of ex-burglars reported having used people’s public posts on sites like Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook to “pick out potential places to rob. Three quarters of the surveyed ex-burglars also used Google Street View to get a feel for the property”. (Winterfeldt).
Perhaps the most famous recent example of this was in 2016 when Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint at her hotel in Paris, after having posted numerous photos online of herself wearing a series of massively expensive pieces of jewellery, as well as pictures of the hotel at which she was staying in the days leading up to the robbery.
Certainly this is an extreme example of a unique way to use social media tools, and it’s worth noting that the sample size of the UK and US studies were quite small (and that the studies were conducted by security firms). But it does serve as a good reminder to be careful about what we share, and when and how publicly we share it. Sometimes, it might be better to share those vacation posts sometime after the fact, or at least make sure that you are up-to-date on your chosen platform’s privacy settings.