Snapchat released an update to its app last week that introduced a feature called Snap Map, which allows the app to share your location with other users and look at Snapchat stories based on location.
In the wake of its release, a number of privacy concerns have been raised by a variety of groups — from security experts to child advocacy groups — urging users turn off the feature to protect their privacy.
Primary among the concerns of privacy advocates is the fact Snapchat doesn’t fully disclose just how revealing the Snap Map feature is when enabled. Users may not realize anytime they open the app — not just when they post a photo or video to stories — they broadcast their exact locations to anyone on their friends lists.
“It’s worrying that Snapchat is allowing under 18s to broadcast their location on the app where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contact lists,” the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said in a statement following the Snap Map update.
“With public accounts, this will include those who are not known to the user. This highlights why it’s vital children are automatically offered safer accounts on social media to ensure they are protected from unnecessary risks.”
Another child advocacy group, Childnet International, said: “Given how specific this new feature is on Snapchat — giving your location to a precise pinpoint on a map — we would encourage users not to share their location, especially with people they don’t know in person.”
Law enforcement also has expressed concerns. Police in Preston, England, took to social media to warn Snapchat users about how revealing the app is, noting it is of particular concern for parents who have children who use the app.
Likewise, state troopers in Massachusetts posted a message on Facebook advising parents with young Snapchat users to take precautions regarding the feature. “I’d recommend talking to your children about the concerns with sharing their location with strangers,” State Police spokesperson Dustin Fitch wrote.
How To Turn Off Snap Map
For those concerned about the potential privacy implications of enabling the Snap Map feature, there is a way to prevent the app from revealing your location to other users.
For one, Snap Maps is an opt-in feature and doesn’t take effect until the app is updated and the user is taken through the setup process, but Snapchat does a sub-optimal job of explaining just how often Snap Maps shares a user’s location.
The first time the app is opened after the update, Snapchat will walk through the new feature with a step-by-step tutorial. After showing how to use the Snap Map, it will ask if or with whom the user wants to share his or her location. The user can select all friends, a select group of friends or “only me,” also known as “Ghost Mode.”
If you already have gone through the setup process and want to change your settings, this can be done by opening Snap Map and tapping the settings menu in the upper right-hand corner. This will once again display the options for who gets to see your location. Select “Ghost Mode” to hide your location from others.
In “Ghost Mode,” a user still will be able to access Snap Map and see others’ locations. However, Snapchat still will track the user’s location for geocentric features like filters.