Privacy Concerns for Parents and Children with Snapchat’s New Location Feature
Snapchat’s latest feature, included in its update last week, is raising privacy and safety concerns. Called Snap Maps, the new feature allows users to share their location with all, a few, or none of their friends. If you choose to use this feature, Snapchat will track your location and share it with select friends, by placing your avatar in a specific location on the map.
When you update your app and get to the Snap Map prompts, it takes just three screens to be clicked through to complete setup. Though it mentions sharing your location, it’s not exactly clear on what that means. Users may not realize that Snap is posting your location on Snap Map every time you open the app.
The location sharing feature is turned off (in “Ghostmode) by default, but child safety advocates have still raised concerns over the privacy implications of this service.
“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,” said Childnet International, a child safety group, in a statement released last week. The group encourages people not to share their location, especially with strangers, because Snap Map shares where you are to “a precise pinpoint on a map.”
Snapchat is not the first social media application to come under fire for location tracking. Twitter allows its users to add location to their tweets and Facebook’s “share location” function allows people to tract contacts in both check-ins and Messenger. Launched in 2015, Google’s Timeline allows Google Maps to track you as long as your location services are turned on.
If you or your children have just received the Snapchat update, here is how to modify or turn off this feature:
- Navigate to your settings, which you can access from the new map. Settings are located under the “gear” at the top right of the map.
- Scroll down to “Who Can…” => See My Location. (If you navigated from the map, you’ll automatically be taken here).
- Choose who can see your location, or swipe “Ghost Mode” on to disable sharing your location to anyone.
Not only is the consumer-facing information for Snap Map not detailed enough, many people often agree to updates and new settings on apps without looking at the specifics. Be diligent in protecting your family’s privacy by reviewing all location settings on each device regularly.