Modern technology has brought us incredible advances and conveniences… but it has also led to privacy concerns that previous generations didn’t need to worry about.
One of those privacy issues may be lurking on your smartphone, or even on the phones of your children. A popular phone app is now designed to trace and broadcast your every move, and the feature may be particularly troublesome for parents.
Snapchat is a popular social media application that lets users send messages and fun photos to a group of friends. The chances are good that you’ve used it, along with over 100 million other users.
The app’s new “Snap Maps” feature is causing concern among privacy advocates, however. According to Fox WFXT News, Snapchat is describing the upgrade as a “new way to explore the world,” but it relies on one troubling capability: Sharing your exact location on a map to potentially hundreds of people.
“Children are unwittingly transmitting their locations in real time,” stated Fred Ryan, the chief of Arlington Police in Massachusetts. He and other law enforcement officials are concerned that the location sharing feature could be used for criminal purposes, especially against kids.
The officer explained that while “Snap Maps” is relatively new, other similar information sharing applications have been used to aid crimes in the past. “We’ve seen that in home burglaries, we’ve seen that in some fraud cases,” he told WFXT News. “Bullying, domestic violence.”
“We’re just asking parents to have conversations and make responsible decisions about this matter with their children,” Chief Ryan continued.
Technically, the mapping feature within Snapchat is “opt in,” which means that a person must agree to share their location information before it is transmitted.
However, many users — including people who aren’t tech savvy or privacy aware — might approve the information request after upgrading the app, and not realize how much location information is actually being sent. Once a user has opted in, Snapchat continues to broadcast their location every time it is opened.
For people who enjoy Snapchat but don’t want to share their location with the world, there’s a solution. It’s called “ghost mode.” According to Snapchat’s technical support, this is available on the settings menu on the map view by changing the sharing option to “only me.”
“I told my son to put himself on ghost mode because there’ll be none of that. I don’t want my kids to be tracked by anybody,” a parent named Bella Giambusso told WFXT News.
If you value online privacy, you might want to do the same… or even consider uninstalling the app entirely.
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