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Snapchat Maps What are the Risks

So…Snapchat’s latest feature Snap Maps reveals users specific location and displays it within a new map feature on the app.

There are a number of concerns relating to user, particularly child, safety. The NSPCC said: “It’s worrying that Snapchat is allowing under 18s to broadcast their location on the app where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contact lists.

Are the NSPCC, the Police, Parents and Responsible Adults out there right to be concerned?.
Yes. Yes they are.

Preston Police issued specific warnings via Facebook in the past few days stating ‘Obviously this may cause concern for certain users, particularly those who have young children who use the app’

What is Snapchat Maps?

Snapchat Maps is a feature that allows users to see where other Snapchat ‘friends’ are in real time. According to a recent article via Snapchat’s own website,

‘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 – If your friends are sharing their location with you, their Actionmoji will appear on the Map’.

This press release, like the launch video for Snap Maps, are hazy on the specific details of what Snap Maps does. There’s a reason for that.

How Does Snapchat Maps work?

Photos and videos users post publicly to (Our Story) can be found on the map. Snapchat users who have chosen to share their location (ie not those in ghost mode) can be seen on the map by those they have added as ‘friends’. To view, the user just has to pinch fingers on the Snapchat camera screen and this will open up the Map.

Snapchat do state on their website that ‘Like Search, the only way a Snap can show up on the Map is if it has been submitted to Our Story’. They’ve also said ‘If you don’t open the app for 8 hours, your location will be removed from the Map until you open Snapchat again’. Why 8 hrs? Does this apply at night? So if

Worryingly Snapchat Maps do seem to give a pretty accurate location of where you are located when using Snapchat. Right down to the street. Yes, Maps has the ability to ‘zoom’ right into the street location.

Snapchat Maps Concerns

Where do I start. Stalking, threatening, bullying, unwelcome visitors, opportunistic adults, relationship control, vulnerable children and young people revealing their locations, not to mention adults.

Ultimately Wired aptly summed up general concerns for younger users and teens who will opt in and ‘might not fully grasp the implications of a technology that constantly tracks their location’.

Verge asks ‘What if you’re home alone at night and open the app to view friends snaps’. Sorry did I mention Snapchat’s video didn’t cover this. If you opt in your location is shared every time you open the app.

Top Tip. Don’t Snapchat when you’re Home Alone.

Note to Teachers. Snap (Snapchats owner company) passes the buck nicely by pointing out that ‘Points of interest’ for example, schools are ‘provided’ by 3rd party Mapbox. No responsibility with Snapchat then?

The UK Safer Internet Centre reinforced advice for kids ‘It is important to be careful about who you share your location with, as it can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time’.

Can a user ‘opt out’ of Snapchat Maps

Older versions of the app which are not updated will not offer maps. Up to date versions will. It’s opt in. Snapchat does give users control over sharing their location – when the app is updated or installed for the first time – users are taken through a number of screens to set up their preferred setting. The screen shots below demonstrate the steps a user takes in order to set up a level which they are most comfortable with:

Snapchat Maps

Snapchat users can, at any time turn off sharing their location by going into ‘ghost mode’. This stops your ‘friends’ seeing your location. To do this:

  • Access the Map by pinching the screen
  • Either tap on the cog at the top right or just tap on your own user name. This will take you right into the settings for ‘location updates’
  • Check the box for ghost mode

At the moment there is no end in sight in the race between social media giants to stay on top. And no regulation despite the obvious threats to children and young people’s safety. So it’s crucial that our generation of adults has at least an understanding of messaging, video and live streaming apps, and the risks posed to children with the constant barrage of new features.

Take care online


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Posted By Wayne Denner

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Wayne Denner shares his knowledge & expertise on leading tech industry blog.

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