Privacy concerns over Snapchat’s new maps feature

Security expert warns feature could allow someone to stalk and target young people

The idea behind Snap Maps is that users can stay up to date with their friend’s lives and meet up easily.

Privacy and security concerns have been raised about Snapchat’s new maps feature.

Snapchat released their new Snap Map feature last week which allows users to see each other’s locations.

“We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world! See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure,” the company said in a statement.

If two users follow each other, they can share their locations and see where the other person is and what they are doing.


The idea is that users can stay up to date with their friend’s lives and meet up easily.

According to a report by Omnicore, Ireland was the top country for Snapchat usage based on percentage usage by adults in each market.

However, IT security expert Brian Honan said there were a number of concerns about the feature being automatically turned on for all users.

“Firstly, there is the privacy implications that anyone who is a Snapchat friend will be able to see where the user is and indeed who they are with.

“ There is also the security concerns where those with nefarious intent could stalk and target young people, or know when certain users are not at home and target them for burglary,” said Mr Honan.

Mr Honan said people needed to exercise caution when adding people they do not know very well as Snapchat friends.

“People need to understand the risks of allowing those you don’t know well into your internet circle of friends. Our lives are now so intertwined with the Internet that we need to better understand how our locations and other aspects of our lives can be inadvertently exposed online by the apps and systems we use,” he said.

Mr Honan said the Snapchat and other social media companies are adding location based features such as Maps to make money.

“I expect Snapchat added this feature to encourage more people to use their platform so they could then use their data to sell onto advertisers.

“In the industry we have a saying if you are not paying for a service you are not the customer you are actually the product. This is because the internet companies make their money from our data by selling it to advertisers,” he said.

Mr Honan said parents should educate themselves about the types of apps their children are using.

“Parents should then talk openly and regularly with their children about using the Internet and the associated risks. After all we educate children how to be safe in the real world so we should do the same for the online world. There are many resources parents can use to educate themselves such as the webwise website,” he said.

A Snapchat spokesperson said the safety of its users is very important to the company and that parents and educators have "accurate information" about how the map function works.

“Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time. It’s also not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends.”


What is Snap Map?

The Snap Map allows users to view snapshots of their friends activities along with their location.

If two users follow each other, they can share their locations and see where the other is and what they are doing. According to Snapchat, the idea is users can stay up to date with their friend’s lives and meet up easily.

Who can see my location?

Only the people you choose can see your location. However, if you send a snap to your “Story” the map may still appear.

Snap Map will only update your location while you are using the app - it won’t update when you have the app closed.

Your location on the Map will expire after several hours, or as soon as you go into Ghost Mode.

How can I hide my location?

To turn off your location altogether, go to your phone’s settings and find ‘Snapchat’ then click on ‘location’, and choose to ‘never share’.

Only Me (Ghost Mode): Your location won't be visible to anyone else on the Map.

My Friends: Your location will be visible to all your followers.

Users can also choose to select friend to only allow specific followers to share their location with.