Think privacy before using Snapchat’s new map feature

Big Brother Watch Team / June 23, 2017

Noticed anything different about your Snapchat? You can now use it to see exactly where your friends are.

A new promo video sets the scene. Two girls are looking for something to do, they go onto Snapchat and see that one of their friends is at a nearby magic show, whilst another four are at a music concert which they eventually decide to attend.

So what actually is this new feature? Well its called Snap Map and in a blog post Snap Inc. wrote; “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!”. Basically you can now see a map which shows you the location of your friends (if they have enabled the feature), as well as ‘Stories’ for popular tourist sites, and ‘hotspots’ where Snapchat highlights there is a lot going on.

Importantly, when you access the new feature for the first time you are given the option of who you want to share your location data with, by going into the ominous sounding ‘Ghost mode’ (which still allows you to see where your friends are, even though they can’t see you). Whilst this choice is encouraging, anyone using Snap Map must remember what they’re signing up for. You are allowing your friends, and many Snapchat users have hundreds of them, to see exactly where you are in real time, you’ll be creating a detailed and ever expanding picture of your daily movements.

Snapchat already has access to your location if you use their geolocation filters, but Snap Map has the potential to be much more intrusive. Given that teens are the most common users of Snapchat concerns have been raised about the dangers of this new feature. This is a golden opportunity for parents to speak to children about their privacy and how to stay safe in the digital world. This conversation has to happen sooner rather than later, before teenagers see this kind of feature as the new norm.

We encourage users to think about the implications of Snap Map. If it gives you an uneasy feeling opt out and keep your location private.