Wired, we love it when you make up words. But stop!

My copy of Wired arrived in the mail today.

Page 040 Jargon Watch:

“Cybercase v. To scope out a joint using geotagged data written into digital photos posted online. By browsing images of luxury goods on sites like Flickr or craigslist, thieves can often glean the exact location of the loot and then plot a targeted break-in.”

OK – I know Wired takes credit for popularizing terms like crowdsourcing and Great Firewall of China (page 30, same issue) but c’mon.

First of all, this meme dates all the way back to May of this year when two researchers at the International Computer Science Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. created it. The pair, Gerald Friedland and Robin Sommer, wrote a paper titled: Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geo‐Tagging and presented it at the  Fifth USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Security (HotSec ’10) at the 19th USENIX Security Symposium in Washington, D.C.

See how boring all of that sounds in context?

The topic got a bit of a run after the paper was published. ReadWriteWeb and The Atlantic, probably among others. And yet, a Google search for cybercasing turns up fewer than five relevant references in the top 100 results. And those are all to the paper or to the RWW or Atlantic coverage. This is a word in search of a use case to apply itself to.

I really only noticed the term in the magazine today because a few weeks ago we had a potential “cybercase” which took place in a next door town. Police reported that some thieves had broken into homes based on people’s Facebook updates. It took about 2.5 seconds for that to go viral. Unfortunately for the sake of a good story, as Jeff Jarvis discovered, the thieves and the victims were known to each other – that’s why they could read their Facebook updates in the first place.

Of interest to me, the actual local paper (my former employer) reported, but never played up the Facebook angle possibly by luck, or just plain good judgment.

But, getting back to Wired: I love it when they “discover” words and it is always worth at least a chuckle, if not some further thought. But please, this is obviously a fake trend story so next time let’s try to couch the definition a bit more:

“Cybercase v. The potential threat, though never actually spotted in the wild, that really intelligent thieves (who apparently prefer crime to a career in IT) might spend their time scoping out a joint using geotagged data written into digital photos posted online, instead of just driving around to the nice parts of town and looking for homes with a week’s worth of mail on the front step. By browsing images of luxury goods on sites like Flickr or craigslist, thieves can often glean the exact location of the loot and then plot a targeted break-in, that is assuming the images were taken in your current home, and the item you put on craigslist did not sell that very afternoon. By the way, if the images were in fact taken at home, you might want to warn your neighbors since the GPS tags are probably going to drop the crooks in their swimming pool.”

  • Guest

    Search for “cybercasing” to get the relevant hits…