On Wednesday, Snapchat launched Snap Map, a new update that allows users to see where their friends are and what they’re doing on a handy map. However, although the feature makes it easy for friends to find each other, several people have expressed safety concerns about Snap Map — particularly the feature’s ability to pinpoint a user’s exact location, down to the street address. The map may help users stay connected, but critics worry that it could also be a vehicle for stalking and other creepy behavior. (Note: It is possible to turn off Snap Map, which would negate these risks. Furthermore, Snapchat emphasizes that location sharing is off by default.)
If you’re thinking, “Wait, huh? What’s Snap Map?,” let me back up. The Snap Map update lets Snapchat users sign up to have their locations appear on a global map. Users have the option of making their locations available to all of their friends or select friends, or they can choose to hide their locations by “ghosting.” Once signed into Snap Map, users will be able to see exactly where their friends are (provided that those friends have also enabled their locations). A promotional video for the feature shows two Snapchat users using Snap Map to see what their friends are up to and meet up with them. (You can find out more about getting and navigating the Snap Map update here.)
To be clear, your location will not be shared unless you open Snap Map and choose to make your location available.
The problem with Snap Map, as a number of people have pointed out, is that you don’t want everyone to know exactly where you are all of the time. Having that information public could be dangerous, especially for people who have a lot of followers that they don’t know personally. For example, YouTuber Bella Santos told BuzzFeed News, “I use Snapchat all the time. I have around 800 followers. If Ghost Mode isn't used then anyone can see where I am. As someone who has an open Snapchat, I could have randoms following my location whenever they feel like it.”
Some parents are especially concerned about children and teens using the feature and revealing their locations online. A school in Staffordshire, U.K., for example, issued a warning to parents that Snap Map can “locate exactly where you are, which building you are in and exact whereabouts within the building.” According to the BBC, a user named Leanne wrote, “If you zoom right in on this new Snapchat map thing it literally tells you where everyone lives? Like exact addresses — bit creepy no?” Another wrote, “This new Snapchat update is awful. An invitation for stalkers, kidnappers, burglars and relationship trust issues.”
Snapchat has emphasized that Snap Map is entirely opt-in, and it won't share your location without your consent. A spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed News,
Nothing happens without your consent. You share what you want to share. You need to choose to add friends, you need to opt in to make yourself visible on Snap Map, you need to select the friends you have first approved so they can see you on Snap Map, you need to opt in to post to Our Story and choose to make your Snaps visible.
If you’ve downloaded the update and you don’t want people to be able to see your location on Snap Map, set your app to “Ghost Mode.” The first time you open Snap Map, you'll be able to choose your location sharing preferences ("Friends," "Select Friends," or "Ghost Mode"). If you've already got Snap Map going, you can swap over to Ghost Mode whenever you'd like. Here’s how:
- Open Snapchat and pinch the camera screen. Snap Map should open up.
- Tap on the settings icon (the gear icon) in the upper right corner.
- Select “Ghost Mode.”
You’ll still be able to see your friends’ locations, but yours will remain hidden.