Police forces have said that concerns over child safety in a Snapchat feature which reveals users’ locations could be used for stalking users.
Parents have been urged to deactivate “Snap Maps” on their children’s phones after Snapchat offered the location-sharing mode this week.
How It Works
The feature projects a map of friends in near locations, demonstrating their latest location using a smartphone’s GPS sensor. It can be used to search for locations such as individual schools, with the app projecting public photos and videos posted by students.
Despite the fact that the feature was originally designed for friends to spot each other and meet if they happened to be in one place or nearby, the feature could be misused to stalk or abuse people.
Preston Police said on its Facebook page: “Obviously this may cause concern for certain users, particularly those who have young children who use the app.”
The mode could be turned off in order to maintain users’ privacy.
A spokesperson for the National Society for the Protection of Children said: “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.
“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.”
The UK Safer Internet Centre said: “It is important to be careful about who you share your location with, as it can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time.”
“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.”
Parents would be able to deactivate the feature on children’s phones by activating the “ghost mode”.
“The safety of our community is very important to us and we want to make sure that all Snapchatters, parents and educators have accurate information about how the Snap Map works.” said a spokesperson from the company.
“With Snap Map, location-sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional. 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.”