Cybertip.ca’s take (read and scroll below for Natalia’s take):

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, through its Cybertip.ca program, wants to make parents aware of a concerning new location-sharing feature on Snapchat, an app that lets users send photos, videos, and messages that disappear after a set time. Snapchat is hugely popular with teens and has more users than Twitter.

What is the concern?

If location services have been turned on, “Snap Maps” reveals your current location by showing your Bitmoji character on a map or a shadow-figure if a Bitmoji character has not been created. This opt-in feature allows friends to look at shared stories (created by a combination of Snaps, both images and videos) taken by multiple users at the same event or location, or see where other friends are located. Users can select who sees where they are – all friends, a select group, or none (ghost mode). You can zoom out far enough to see a whole world map, and close enough to see street names, parks, and other landmarks.

There is a real safety concern in others being able to track your daily movements, including where you go to school, the route you walk every day, and where you live. Users may not realize this feature is on all the time and updates your location each time you open the app, not just when sharing to “My Stories.”

What can parents do?

Talk to your teen about:

  • Setting the app to “Ghost Mode” which keeps their location private (the Bitmoji does not appear on the map).
  • Ensuring their “friends” on Snapchat (and all social media) are people they have met in-person
  • Making sure they have downloaded Snapchat Kids (for those under 13), a limited version of the app that lets them to take photos and play with the fun filters, but does not allow them to connect with other users.

Share this important information with other parents and encourage others to sign-up for Cybertip.ca Alerts.

Natalia’s take:

When my teen showed me this new feature (which is set to reveal your location by default unless you set it to ghost mode yourself), I was shocked at the detail of the maps! I could see exactly where your children were yesterday. I knew who was in school, who was hanging out with whom, etc. The maps are so detailed I could even see the shape of your driveway and the shape of your home. I believe this will cause a lot of drama for teens who wish to have some privacy about what they do. It will cause issues where their friends or parents will say: “I know you weren’t there! I saw you on Snap Maps!” — but maybe the kid just left their phone at home.

This prompted a conversation last night about the future of privacy. Will people have to pay for privacy? Think about it… Think about how much money app developers could make if they started charging a fee to take yourself off the grid. What if at some point they remove the location services feature off our phones and charge us for privacy? There certainly would be money to be made there …

Please share this article with all your friends and family!