This is probably old news now in an era where word travels so quickly and I am sure that even people who don’t use Snapchat have heard of its ridiculous new update. The update included a new feature called ‘Snap Map’ which allows users to see the location of other Snapchat users. Seems alright so far? To be honest this sounds pretty horrendous to me already, but it gets worse. The map is so precise that you can zoom in and see exactly which house on a street someone is in.
If that isn’t already weird enough, Snapchat then uses other information such as speed and phone activity to update other users on what it thinks you’re doing. For example, Snapchat may use my data to see I am travelling at 570 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft, in which case it will place my Bitmoji (a cartoon avatar that can be personalised to look like you) in a plane so other users can tell that I am flying.
The feature has been highly criticised – mainly by parents who fear for their child’s safety - and ironically has been released at the same time as a security report which warns people about sharing locations on Facebook, as it can alert criminals as to when your house is empty. The same would easily go for the new Snapchat feature. Not only is the feature a threat to safety, it is a threat to friendships and relationships. The whole idea of being able to see a loved one’s location causes trust issues and paranoia with one twitter user posting, ‘This Snapchat update is great because instead of being paranoid that I’m being left out, I get to see it happen in real time’. Another Twitter user posted, ‘Thank you Snap Map for telling the uninvited friend that everyone is hanging out without them’.
Whereas Uber, Find My iPhone and weather apps are dependent on location tracking, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are different. All would work perfectly fine without access to your location data – it just means geotagging your photos isn’t immediate, and your news is probably less local. But whether consciously or not, people seem to share their location freely, even with the apps that don’t really need it. Why tech companies want access to that data is a no-brainer – the more information they have on their users’ habits and preferences, the better.
Snapchat has clearly stated that the Snap Map feature can be turned off (Ghost mode) and you can hand pick who sees your location, but another problem then pops up. Snapchat users may be as young as 12 yet they are bearing the responsibility for the decision to turn Ghost mode on, and they then may have to hand pick friends which within young children is inevitably going to cause arguments.
I love using Snapchat, but even for me this is one massive step too far!