Snapchat’s latest feature ‘Snap Map’ allows users to track other people’s location in real time, raising privacy and security concerns for parents and child safety advocates.
Snap Map, plots users and their snaps onto a map so two users following each other can see where they are and what they are doing. The idea is that Snapchatters can stay up to date with their friend’s lives, and use the Snap Map feature to find one another.
“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!” said the company in a blogpost announcing the update.
But, parents and child safety advocates are concerned.
IT security expert Brian Honan thinks there is a huge privacy implication. First of all, anyone who is a Snapchat friend will be able to see where the user is and who they are with. Secondly, there are huge concerns where those with malevolent intent could stalk and target young adults, or know when certain users are not at home and target them for burglary.
Of course, it’s not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t a friend on Snapchat. Furthermore, the feature is off by default and can be turned off at any given time.
But, then again, why would any social media company encourage users to share their location? To make money, of course.
How to use Snap Map?
By adding this location-based feature, Snapchat is encouraging millennial users to use their platform as a basic means of ensuring safety. At the same time, the data accumulated will be then sold to third-party advertisers.
Snap Inc. isn’t the first social media company to make money by selling user data to its advertisers. It certainly won’t be the last one in line, either. Twitter allows users to add their location to tweets. Apple allows users to share their location on a map for a certain period of time. One of Facebook’s most popular feature is ‘check-ins’ and the “share location” messenger function.
In this scenario, what can we do to ensure that young adults are aware of using the Snap Map feature and the associated risks? The first step is to educate children how to be safe in the online world. Parents can use resources such as webwise.ie to educate themselves.
Young adults should be advised to only use the discoverability tool with friends, and never with strangers. At the same time, they should review the feature periodically. For instance, if you unfriend someone, you must ensure you’re in ‘ghost mode’ with that person. Lastly, Snapchat users should not add contacts if they don’t already know them in person.