Snapchat recently launched a new feature called "Snap Map" which lets you share where you are with your friends and followers. It uses a GPS signal to show a user's exact location and needless to say it’s creating all kinds of talk, particularly around child safety.
Snapchat released the update saying 'We've built a whole new way to explore the world! See what's happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!"
Snap Map focuses on sharing the location of posted Snaps to Our Story - which is public - so that users can view a collection of snaps of sporting events, celebrations, breaking news, and more from all across the world.
That’s fair enough, but what Snapchat doesn’t tell you in the video, or in the app, is that if you aren’t careful, your exact location will be broadcast to anyone on your friends list every time you open the app.
What’s the big deal about that? Well, the potential danger of this feature means that it can allow people to learn your travel patterns such as where you live, where you work, where you go to school and how you spend your time. It can also let a potential burglar know when you are not home.
For instance, imagine the following scenarios; you’re home alone and you open the app to view some Snaps posted by your friends. Or you’re walking somewhere by yourself and you get a ping from a friend so you read the message. Or you’re travelling and want to take a pic with a location-specific filter to post later on another platform...
In all of these vulnerable situations, if you have Snap Map enabled, your location is immediately broadcast to some, or all of the people in your Snapchat friends list.
This increases the risk of children being exposed to bullying, stalking and strangers... What’s more, people aren’t always aware that they are being tracked.
See the following video from @JoeySalads which demonstrates how easy it is to 'locate' people via Snap Map.
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The app does have a ‘Ghost Mode’ setting which takes away the ability for anyone to see a user's location - but surprisingly those who turn on ghost mode can still track others and see their location. In my opinion, Snapchat should take a leaf out of Linkedin's book when it comes to its anonymity settings.
In order to switch to ghost mode, open the app in camera mode, pinch the screen and a number of settings will be displayed, including turning on ghost mode.
Surveys show that Snapchat is one of the most-used texting and photo-swapping service among Irish teenagers and children. However, the same surveys show it is the least used major social media service among parents.
Needless to say, parents are advised to ensure privacy settings on their children’s app are secure.
It’s never a good thing if children are giving away personal information – particularly their location – because unfortunately, it’s very easy for adults with an unhealthy interest in children to find them online and communicate with them.
As a tech-savvy parent, this article isn’t intended to scaremonger. In this digital age, the challenge for parents is to keep on top of app features similar to Snap Map and to realise the implications of children sharing information.
With regards to Snapchat, enabling Ghost Mode is the first step to achieving this.
Here are some other ways on How To Keep You Kids Safe Online
Note: I had originally included Snapchat's official YouTube video explaining Snap Map, but they have since removed it. This may be an indicator that they plan to rollback the feature.