Last Wednesday, Snapchat introduced a new feature called Snap Map which lets you see your friends’ locations in real-time. Since its launch, it has raised security and privacy concerns because people could use it as a tool for stalking, bullying, and possibly crimes.
Snap Inc. was not clear about the privacy implications the app would have once users opted in on Snap Map at first. It has taken a few people noticing on their own to call the attention of the company to clarify what it means to activate this feature, although luckily there haven’t been any incidents.
Snap Map is the latest attempt from Snapchat to stay both relevant and original in the race against Instagram, who has quickly outgrown the yellow ghost app by copying and perfecting many of its signature features in recent months.
What is Snap Map and how does it work?
The new Snapchat feature is a twist on finding out what your friends are doing in real-time by also showing you where they are. To visit the Snap Map, just open the camera and make a pinching gesture to zoom out into the world.
You will see a map of your area and your location, signaled by your friends Bitmoji characters and yours as well. Snap calls these new avatars Actionmoji because they might show up on the Map performing the same actions people are doing in real life.
So, for instance, if you send out a snap that indicates that you are driving or walking, your Actionmoji will be doing the same in the Snap Map. A heat map layer shows the most active areas of your city too, highlighting in blue the places where some snaps have been taken and in red others where there’s a lot of snaps.
How to opt out of Snap Map and protect your privacy
That all sounds cool, but Snap’s step-by-step guide to Snap Map when you first launch the app after updating doesn’t tell you everything. For instance, it fails to inform users that their locations will be displayed in real time at all times whenever they are using the app.
New #Snapchat update is quite cool. Great for stalking your friends 😂
— Ashley Richards (@AshRichards7) June 23, 2017
That is controversial for more than one reason, as users are unknowingly letting all of their friends know where they live, where they work, and which routes they usually take to go places every time they check Snapchat to send a snap or answer a message.
As a location-based feature, Snap Map lets you control with who you want to share your location. You can choose to make yourself visible to all your friends, to only a couple of friends you select, or you can lurk in Ghost Mode. Ghost Mode is a double-edged sword that can be used both to protect your privacy and stalk others.
If you want to stop worrying about the creepy implications of people knowing where you are, you can go all the way and turn off the application’s location access in the settings menu.
Some users might consider doing this since Snap Map lets people see up close to even the street you are in and when was the last time you checked Snapchat. The company says they don’t store data for too long and that these statuses delete themselves regularly, but they might do so only after 8 hours in average.