Australia Technology

Cybersafety expert’s alarm over Snapchat’s new precise location feature: ‘Literally shows where you sleep at night’

Source: 9news

Sometimes it feels like a full-time job keeping our children safe from online predators. So the last thing we need is technology making the job even harder.

But a new feature on the Snapchat app, which allows users to see the precise location of their friends, down to the street number, and even offers directions, has parents and cybersafety experts concerned.

Snapchat is a form of social media that allows users to share instant messages and photos with their friends. The app also has a controversial Snap Map feature which allows you to share your location with your friends via a map, which even shows an aerial photo of the location.

Among those concerned about the new feature is cybersafety organisation Safe on Social. A post on its Facebook page reads: “I opened Snapchat this morning to see a notification that they are updating their privacy policy … something I can 100 per cent guarantee your kids won’t look at. Except for a new feature that they may use as it gives them more access to their friends.

“While the Snap Map has been around for years now, the feature to ‘enable precise location’ is new. The app used to share approximate location and now it is precise down to about one metre, if not less.

“The changes that concern me greatly are: How they have updated how they display data for certain products; for example, how recent locations may be shown to your friends on the map, literally showing where you sleep at night.

“How they will share how close you are with your friends on Snapchat based on your interactions with them. (Remember being a teenager and the need to be liked by everyone? This may have implications on a young persons mental health).”

The post also urged people to “take a look at the images I have shared below to get an idea of what you are dealing with.”

“‘My location’, asking me to enable a precise location. ‘My precise location’ when you zoom in high resolution.

“Oh, and those blue dots on the map are a heat map and yes I have just been shown by clicking on it and zooming in the precise location of a little boy, well under the age of 13 years, dancing less than five kilometres from my home and I can see his exact address. Clearly, it was filmed by a parent in their bedroom.

“I cannot stress how important it is to secure the ‘Map’ function.”

Safe on Social, which runs programs to educate parents about cybersafety, said parents needed to arm themselves with knowledge.

“It is 2022 as far as I am concerned parents no longer have the excuse ‘I don’t use Snapchat’. You need to get your head around it right now. Not to stop your kids from using it, but to teach them how to use it better, so you know what to do if something goes wrong.

“You gave them their devices, you allowed the apps. You effectively gave them the keys to the car and let them drive off down the highway with no lessons.”

Parents are urged to protect their children’s safety on the Snapchat app by asking children to enable the ‘ghost mode’ feature, which will hide your location.

You can also choose to turn off “precise location” in your iPhone settings.

Snapchat previously said the map was developed with privacy and security in mind.

“Location sharing via the Snap Map is off by default, and Snapchatters who do decide to share their location on the Map will only be able to see and be seen by mutual friends,” a spokesperson said.

A new paid subscription service, Snapchat+, lets users see each place their friends have been for the past 24 hours.