The growing popularity of location based people finder sites is making searching for a person a trivial pursuit.
Sites like Foursquare.com allow people to “check in” their exact location from their mobile phone. Gowalla.com is another location-based tool where people can announce their real-time location for others to find.
In addition, Twitter’s location-enabled service allows people to broadcast the location of their tweets. Facebook Places could potentially make the location of millions of people easy to find ( at least for their friends ). Facebook Places is a tool that lets people ‘check in’ to Facebook using a mobile device to let friends find their exact location at the moment. Places has the potential to reach over 500 million people on Facebook.
If these popular location-based tools become ubiquitous, it could make people search even easier than it is now with the growing list of people search engines like Spokeo.com, PeopleSmart.com and BeenVerified.com.
Already, skip tracers and debt collectors are using Facebook’s people finder search to locate people who are delinquent on bills.
While the growing number of people using social networks has been a boon for people in the search business like investigators, skip tracers, law enforcement etc., it has also made it easy for criminals to find when people are not home.
A search site called PleaseRobMe.com has pulled location-based announcements from Twitter to show they knew when people were not home.
According to PleaseRobMe.com:
“The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not . . . home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the Internet we’re not home.”
As intriguing as these new people locator and friend finder tools are, they pose risks to people who are unaware of the risks involved.