Snapchat's New Feature Could Be a Major Threat to User Privacy

snapchat image.jpg

Innovative or invasive? Snapchat's newest feature called SnapMap is part exciting (great technology), but also part concerning. The roll out allows its millions of daily users to share their location with Friends through an opt-in function that shows your location on a map. Snapchat created this feature to help users get even more connected to their friends, but many have noticed the very real risks the SnapMap poses for user privacy and security.

When Snapchat released a video to announce Snap Map, it did not mention that if users aren’t careful, their exact location will be broadcast to all of their friends every time they open the app. User locations are updated every time they open the app, and remain on the Map for 8 hours.

One of the most concerning aspects of SnapMap is that users can see exactly where their friends are, revealing home addresses and locations to everyone on their friend list. This is particularly risky since many people may have “friends” on Snapchat that they do not actually know in real-life. Snapchat has a minimum age of 13 for its users, but many young teens and children use the app to send pictures to their friends or just play around with the filters. These young users may not realize that every time they open Snapchat to play with the doggy filter, their location is broadcast to everyone they are connected to on the app. The way Snap Map currently functions provides ample opportunity for lurking, stalking, and other dangerous activities with real-life consequences.

Snapchat has responded to the concerns about their new feature, stating that user safety is a priority and reminding users of the ways to avoid having your location made public. Users have the option to let some or all of their friends have access to their location, or keep the information to themselves. 

Here's how you keep can your location private: once you enter SnapMap, go into “Ghost Mode." While in Ghost Mode, you will be able to see others’ locations without them knowing where you are.

What do you think about the way Snapchat can access and share your exact location?