It’s difficult to think of another app that defines the current technological generation quite like Snapchat does. The image messaging service has grown rapidly from lowly beginnings only six years ago to being used by up to 160 million people per day, as of February of this year.
Young people have become obsessed with documenting each moment of their day, including during school hours, which itself brings questions over productivity and overuse of phones amongst the younger generation. Whilst this can be brushed off as harmless fun with friends, a new update has raised serious questions of privacy and child safety.
Snap Map lets any Snapchat user see where their friends are at any given moment on a map of the world. Alongside this, users can also see recent ‘snaps’ of a certain area, which allows you to connect to a gig you were unable to get tickets for, or check out the beach of a future holiday destination.
Such a feature is a godsend for advertisers who are projected to spend $32bn a year in the US alone by 2021 on location-targeted adverts but what does it mean for the mere mortals who only wish to send a picture of themselves making a funny face to their mates?
Cause for concern
The crux comes from the fact that young people are not particularly careful when it comes to using social media. Open privacy settings usually means that anyone who is anyone is able to connect with a child without much effort on their part.
And whenever a person is logged into Snapchat, Snap Map will update their location accordingly, to high levels of accuracy. This isn’t a case of seeing which town someone might be, but literally being able to watch their purpose-built avatar sitting in their home during the evening or, more disturbingly, somewhere a little more open and unsafe.
It isn’t only predators or child groomers that could be cause for concern. Groups of bullies could quite easily discover what somebody is up to of an evening or during the weekend, leaving a victim open to a level of harassment never before seen.
Sign of the times
For parents, the one concern is the safety of their child. The positive part of this is that the feature is “opt-in”; it’ll only become active when you open the camera screen and “pinch out” on your phone. Once opted in, you are able to activate Ghost Mode, which hides your location from any potential friend or foe.
To activate Ghost Mode, simply open Snapchat and go to the Camera function, pinch out to open Snap Map & select the ‘settings gear’ in the top right-hand corner. There, you can tick the box saying “Enable Ghost Mode”. Voila! Now you or your child’s location is hidden from view.
Whilst it is easy to be concerned by the moving trends of the internet and consistent potential privacy compromises, the best we can all do is accept it as a sign of the times. We should get the most out of these ground-breaking and exciting features, but remain cautious and vigilant when it comes to protecting ours, and our child’s security.