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Foursquare and all of its imitators use a location-based social networking website for mobile devices, such as smart phones. Users “check in” at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or by a device app by selecting from a list of places the application deems to be near by according to the on GPS hardware in the mobile device or network location provided by the application. Each check-in awards the user points and badges. From what we can guess as of April, 2012, the company reported it had 20 million registered users and was expected to pass 750 million check-ins before the end of June. They average approximately three million check-ins per day

It’s a cute app – much like a fluffy Bengal tiger.  People are checking in at grocery stores, coffee shops restaurants – and get this – checking in at home – not kidding.  TMI people!  So what the big deal – you are telling the world when you are not home time for the tech savvy neighborhood bugler to do a B&E and clean out your house.

Other consequences – if you have 200 followers do you really know who they are? And, do you even care who they are?  Maybe someone thinks you are a good target for a mugging – take off of you that big Rolex you tweeted to your friends about, or even worse, a sexual predator or kidnapper.

So what the heck is your Executive doing with Foresquare, anyway?  You are trying to protect him and he is leaving a data trail that would make Hansel and Gretel blush with envy.

With a bit or work – and I have tried this – you can profile a person using Foresquare in an hour using ForeTrace to review their history and places they like to frequent.  You can get times, locations, preferences, of a target and develop predictive models of where they will visit, along what roads and when. What would have taken a surveillance team days, if not weeks, to assemble can now be assembled in a matter of only a few hours.  The tweets are automatic — so as you pass by hotspots and linked locations — the smart device just tweets away that you just passed by.  Also, just this last month foursquare has finally activated a native Facebook place tagging when you choose to share check-ins with your Facebook friends.

What really funny is an employer who just figured out what foresquare was and watch a number of his employees wasting their time and going place they were not supposed to be at, while on the clock.

Long before social media and foresquare, the criminal and terrorist needed opportunity (as with all crime) and that  opportunity is harvested through obtaining  three (3) vectors of information coming together: Who (person), where (place) and when (time).  When these three vectors cross there is opportunity. The fourth vector for the criminal/terrorist is how (method) – kidnapped, sniper, close quarter assault, etc. The bodyguard’s job has always been to prevent the leakage of the first 3 vectors or at least one of them. That was the importance of an ESD search.

Judge Giovanni Falcone was killed by the Corleonesi Mafia on 23 May, 1992 on the motorway near the town of Capaci with his wife Francesca Morvillo and body guards Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro and Vito Schifani.  All because he called his mother by telephone to say he was visiting, the criminals had her telephone line tapped and a bomb already in place.  They knew his contacts (who), they knew his habits (the where), they just needed the time (when). Electronic surveillance has always been either active (as in Falconi’s case) or passive where we are transmitting the information ourselves and the criminals just have to receive it. Foresquare is a classic case of passive surveillance where our principal, addicted to social networking, is providing the who – where and when required for there to be “opportunity”.

Foresquare is only one of a number of automated applications on cell phones that provide a starkly annoying amount of information.  If you or any of your charges has any of these applications – turn them off or have the charge place their mobile devices in a faraday bag… If, as an EP professional, you are using this or similar functionality on your work phone – you are an annoying twit that is frankly, not fit for duty.

This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Barron James Shortt, theExecutive Director of the IBA.

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