Snapchat rolled out a new mapping feature in 2017, and like all great social-media experiments, it’s walking the lines of creepy. Snap Map the new feature shows you a map of where your friends are in the world.
The map uses Actionmoji to designate where you are and, here’s where the potential creep factor comes in, what you’re up to.
Snap Map also shows you major events where people are snapping all over the globe. You’ll see them as circular icons indicating major landmarks full of tourists which you can tap to get a closer look. The feature also has a heat map, which shows you locations where multiple people are also snapping from. Only snaps that users submit to Snapchat’s Our Story will be visible on the public map, and the snaps will vanish after 24 hours. If a group of your friends appears to be hanging out at the same location, then the app gives you an option to start a chat. If you don’t use Snapchat for several hours, you’ll vanish from the map.
But what Snapchat doesn’t tell you, is that if you aren’t careful, Snap Map will broadcast your exact location to anyone on your friends list every time you open the app.
When you update Snapchat and get to the Snap Map walk-through, only three screens need to be clicked through to complete it. Though it mentions sharing your location, it’s vague on what that exactly means. Users might not understand that Snap is posting your location on Snap Map every time you open the app. Not just when you share Snaps to Our Story.
Because Snap Map shows exactly where you are every time you open the app, there are a number of dangerous scenarios that could take place without a user even posting a Snap publicly. What if you’re at home alone, at night, and open the app to view Snaps posted by friends? What if you’re walking by yourself and get a ping that a friend sent you a Snap message, so you read it? What if you’re traveling 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.
People have been responding to the risks Snap Maps poses to children who aren’t aware of the dangers location-sharing poses. It is a threat for teens and adults as well, who might not know about Snap Map and how it works. Not only is the consumer information for Snap Map not detailed enough, many people often agree to updates and new settings on apps without looking at the specifics.
The way Snap Map currently functions and is communicated to users, it provides opportunity for lurking, stalking, and other dangerous activities with real-life consequences.
Here are details I learned that aren’t communicated through Snapchat’s video and Snap Map walkthrough:
• If you are choosing to share your location on the Map, your location is updated every time the Snapchat app is opened.
• If a Snapchatter chooses to share their location with all of their friends on Snapchat, the app will remind them of that choice periodically to make sure they are still comfortable with this.
• Only mutual friends can see each other on the Map.
• Snapchat will delete precise location data after a short period of time. (This period of time was not specified.) Some more general location data may be retained a little longer (this time was also not specified), but the company says that is also subject to regular deletion.
• If you tap on your friend, you will see when their location was updated (i.e. 1 hour ago, 2 hours ago). Their location reflects where they last opened Snapchat.
• A friend’s location will remain on the Map for up to 8 hours if they do not open the app again, causing their location to update. If more than 8 hours has passed and a Snapchatter has not opened the app, their location will disappear from the Map entirely.
If you want to disable Snap Map, select “Ghost Mode” upon Snapchat’s initial walk-through. If you’ve already enabled location sharing for Snap Map, tap the settings gear in the top right while viewing the Map, and select Ghost Mode from there.
Make sure you keep your family safe and aware of these new features.