by Eddie Sorrells, CPP, PSP, PCI Chief Operating Officer/General Counsel DSI Security Services

Snapchat recently unveiled a new feature for its wildly popular app. For those that may not be familiar with the Snapchat platform, it is a way for people (mostly teens) to quickly share thoughts, pictures, and updates to those they are connected with. Recently a new feature was introduced that seeks to enhance this experience, but also has many parents and security experts worried.

The new Snap Map feature is exactly what it sounds like: A way to share your Snaps (updates), on a map, with friends. This allows the user to share their location with other users, and for others to see precisely where you are at a given time. However, members can add people they have never met to their friends list too. This can raise serious safety concerns for parents.

Some schools in Europe, and I am sure some in the US will follow, have issued warnings to parents such as:  Please be warned that the location-sharing feature lets people “locate exactly where you are, which building you are in and exact whereabouts within the building.” Understandably, educational institutions are worried that this gives those with evil intent one more tool to inflict harm.

People have expressed concern online that the app could be used for stalking or working out exactly where somebody lives. “If you zoom right in on this new Snapchat map thing it literally tells you where everyone lives? Like exact addresses?A bit creepy, no?”- wrote one parent on an internet blog.

While Snap Chat has stated that the new feature is designed to give users the ability to see where their friends are to meet up for coffee, dates, etc., many security experts have said that this new Snap Chat update is an dangerous invitation for stalkers, kidnappers, burglars, and can cause  relationship trust issues between vulnerable teens.

This is simply another reminder to be aware of what your children are using, and how they may be exposing themselves to unforeseen danger.

How to switch off Snap Map location sharing:

  • When in photo-taking mode, pinch the screen to open Snap Map

  • Touch the settings cog in the top right corner of the screen

  • Tap “Ghost Mode” to switch off location sharing

  • Photos and videos posted to Snapchat’s public ‘Our Story’ will still be discoverable on the map