A reflection on 'snap maps', privacy, and cyber-safety
Last week my phone automatically updated all my apps, as it always does. Completely unbeknownst to me, there was a rather sinister new addition to one of my favourite social media apps. I had clicked onto snapchat without paying much attention and accidentally enabled a new feature called ‘snap maps’, later that evening I discovered this new update had been sharing my location for all my snapchat friends to see for several hours. I was understandably horrified and frantically started to search for a way to get rid of it.
This update places your ‘character’ on a map and means that everybody you are friends with on the app can see your location, right down to the exact address you are at. It even goes as far as to show your character in a car if you are driving to a new location! Terrifying huh?
This complete invasion of privacy got me thinking about the very real risks that an update of this nature could pose. It makes it so easy for somebody to discover where you live or work, to work out your travel routes and where you like to socialise; raising the risk of harassment, stalking, or cyber bullying a significant amount. The potential for sexual violence surely increases when an update like this provides such easy access to private information and a live account of our every movements. We now live in a society where everything we do is documented and with the internet evolving at a rate that none of us can keep up with, I think this new update hits home that the onus is now placed on each of us individually to protect ourselves online as big companies, like snapchat, do not.
This cyber ‘responsibility’ now placed on each of us means that large organisations are not really held to account for our online safety. There needs to be far more done to help protect us all, and to help us protect ourselves. I think snapchat users should have been made fully aware exactly what this update was and how to protect yourself whilst using it, well in advance of it being available. I also would argue that the ‘opt out’ approach was the wrong one and an ‘opt in’ one would have perhaps reduced the numbers of those using it. Finally, there should definitely be an age restriction for a feature like this. It has been most popular with children and young people so now we must all try to raise awareness of the real threat this update poses to our safety if left on.
To turn it off: access maps on your Snapchat by pinching your fingers inwards together, doing this allows you to see a map with lots of characters. Click on your character and then on settings. There will then be an option called ‘ghost mode’ putting this on means your character and location will be hidden. I have also attached a link to a YouTube video which shows you how to make this change to your account if you need further help.
- Written by A.Taylor
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