In mid-2017, Snapchat launched Snap Map, a stalky new feature that lets you see where your friends are, and shows your friends where you are.
If it sounds creepy, that’s because it is. And what’s especially worrying is that not many users know much about Snap Map, at all.
So, what’s it all about? How does it work? How safe is it? And how can you turn it off?
What Is Snap Map?
Snap Map is a pretty intuitive world map built into Snapchat that gives you a more detailed look at where people are Snapping from at any given moment. You can access the map by pinching (like you’re zooming out of a photo) within the app.
With Snap Map open, you’ll see the bitmojis of your friends, showing their exact location. We’re talking accuracy to within a few meters, here. Heat maps will show areas with lots of activity. There’s also a scattering of popular events. Click on these to see a Story made up of various users’ Snaps. And if you click elsewhere on the map, you can see recent, public snaps (those shared to “Our Story”), recorded at that location.
Who Can See Your (Exact) Location?
The first time you use Snap Map, you’ll be asked to select your privacy settings. You can also change those settings by clicking the gear icon at the top right corner of the map:
- Ghost Mode hides your location and removes your last location from the map entirely.
- My Friends gives you the option to allow all of your friends to see your location on the map. Or, you can opt to only allow specific friends to see your location.
Your location is only shared when you have the app open on your smartphone.
The problem, and it’s a very worrying one, is that when people have selected their privacy settings they tend to completely forget they’ve even activated Snap Map. I just realized I’ve been broadcasting my location for the past half an hour while writing this article.
That has all sorts of ramifications that should make users and parents very worried about this feature. Below are four examples.
1. Putting Users at Serious Risk
Imagine you accept a Snapchat friend request from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or someone you’ve just met. Now imagine you’ve set your Snap Map settings to share your location with all of your friends.
Now, every time you open Snapchat, that person who you barely know, will know exactly where you are. This is worrying in itself. But when you take into account that a good chunk of Snapchat’s users are young teenagers, it’s especially alarming.
If you want to see how troubling this really is, you need to see this video, where a man adds a young girl to Snapchat, and quickly finds exactly where she’s hanging out in a local park. That’s pretty terrifying.
2. Destroying Privacy
Pretending you’re too unwell to go to work? Telling your friends you’re too busy to come out? Hoping to avoid someone while you’re at the mall? Don’t want people to know you’re home? Be careful. Snapchat has just made getting away with any of this much harder.
All it takes is a Snapchat friend to notice you weren’t quite telling the truth based on your current location to land you in hot water with your mates, or even your boss.
Rookie mistake, yes. But it happens.
3. Straining Relationships
Knowing who’s hanging out with each other at any time can undoubtedly put a strain on relationships. Take this tweet, for example, which shows pretty painfully how Snap Map can lead to someone discovering they’re being excluded from a group. In these kinds of cases, ignorance probably is bliss.
Snap map really out here ruining friendships btw pic.twitter.com/WyL7fuc3D5
— ryan (@katyswetdream) July 16, 2017
But Snap Map doesn’t end at letting you know when you’re not wanted at a party. The feature has also been the cause of affairs being outed. And, people being wrongly accused of cheating because their partner jumped to conclusions after seeing a bitmoji hanging with someone else.
All because they forgot to put their Snap Map on “Ghost Mode”.
4. Creepy Voyeurism
When you post a snap to Our Story, you’re giving Snapchat permission to include that snap in their discovery features, and on the Snap Map if they so wish. That means that potentially anyone could see that snap (though they won’t see your username).
As long as you understand this when posting to Our Story, that’s fine. But after clicking on a few random places on Snap Map, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people had absolutely no idea this is the case.
Stumbling on some of these snaps leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling of being a fly on the wall at private family events, dates, nights out, and even inside schools. It’s creepy.
How Do You Turn It Off?
First off, if you don’t want potentially the entire world seeing a snap, don’t post it to Our Story. Second, if you’re having second thoughts about Snap Map, and don’t want your friends to know exactly where you are, activate Ghost Mode right away. It only takes a second.
- Open the app and go to Snap Map by making a pinching motion.
- Click the gear icon at the top right of the screen.
- Activate Ghost Mode. When asked how long for, select Until turned off.
Now, Snap Map will never share your location.
To go one step further, you could entirely disable location settings from Snapchat via the settings menu on your smartphone. This would, however, limit some features like access to some of Snapchat’s filters, etc.
And to ensure your Snapchat account is doubly secure, here are eight Snapchat security tips you should be taking seriously.
We Should All be Concerned
As you can see, this isn’t just something overly-cautious parents should be worried about. The problems with Snap Map should concern every Snapchat user out there.
Sure, it might make meeting up with friends a tiny bit easier. Some parents use the feature so they know exactly where to pick up their son or daughter.
But are these small benefits really worth the downsides? The risk to safety? The invasion of privacy? The strain it could place on relationships? It seems not.
What do you think? Is Snap Map really as creepy and worrying as it seems? Is this a feature you would be comfortable using?
Image Credit: towfiqu007/Depositphotos