With the addition of Snap Map to Snapchat’s repertoire, the desires of Snapchat users to be James Bond have officially been met. Well, not quite. However, the new facility that is Snap Map, has drastically changed the mainstream social media landscape.
This location sharing feature poses serious concerns and risks in the context of privacy and security.
Gone are the days where discrete knowledge of your whereabouts are private. Now, users can allow their location to be shared in real-time with ‘friends’ on Snapchat via Snap Map. This has inherent risks, particularly since the Map is alarmingly accurate, to almost the specific metre.
As aforementioned in a previous blog, the harsh reality is that many Snapchat users accept friend requests from users who they do not genuinely know. This already carries inherent risks in that Snapchat users communicate with strangers by sending disappearing photos, videos and messages, which can reveal significant identifying information about the individual. However, the security risk has instantly swollen. For instance, it is now possible to find out information such as home addresses, as the Map shows the location on street layout, if one zooms in enough.
Not only this, but Snapchat users can quite literally track the movements of their ‘friends’ on the App. This exacerbates the probability of being victim to crimes, notably harassment, stalking and burglary. Snap Map essentially does the hard work for the criminal, who simply needs to check Snap Map for live location updates as to the whereabouts of their victim. It is even possible to see where someone is driving or walking to, and the time when someone was last at a particular location.
Indeed, prior to the launch of Snap Map, we acted for a high net-worth individual who was burgled as result of him updating his social media to inform his followers that he was on holiday. This situation is far more likely now Snap Map has launched, since criminals can monitor an individual’s location, which will subsequently confirm their exact home address. Then, the criminal can easily see in real-time when the individual is not at home, especially if they are abroad, which means that there is no need to manually post content revealing one’s location, because it will be visible regardless.
To test the theory in the office, we traced a teenage relative on Snapchat at home, and then to school, before sending her a gentle nudge that she might want to upgrade her privacy and security settings.
Another potential hazardous situation includes a vengeful former partner who continues to be a Snapchat friend who then uses Snap Map as a tool for blackmail, stalking and harassment
Fortunately, it is possible to escape the aforementioned hazards by enabling the Ghost Mode feature on Snap Map. This disables Snap Map, keeping the location of the Snapchat user secret. However, posts which are submitted to Snapchat’s ‘Our Story’ will appear on the map, irrespective of the user’s location settings.
In this light, it is undeniable that Snap Map represents a further leap into Orwellian territory, and in the process, Snapchat has once again surreptitiously tested the meaning of privacy in this digital age. It poses very real risks to the safety of both adults and children alike by providing the scope to spy, and to facilitate the aforesaid crimes, particularly when users allow strangers to be their so-called friends on the App.
This post originally appeared on the Himsworth Legal Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks