I am a big fan of nobody ever knowing where I am (excluding my kids, most of the time). So when Snapchat came out with Snap Map, the latest app that tracks users at all times, I was not on board. Much like most of the internet, it seems. Social media has been lighting up with complaints about the new app, but here's the thing: This isn't actually all that new, guys. Snapchat isn't the first app to tell people where you are. A lesser-known Facebook feature has already been able to track you for the past three years. Welcome to the nightmare you didn't even know you were living.
As Money recently noted, back in 2014, Facebook launched a feature called "Nearby Friends," which sounds sort of non-threatening and innocuous, doesn't it? The feature gives Facebook users the option to locate their friends not with a map, but within the neighborhood of their precise location if they happen to be close by (it also shows the location of friends who are traveling). Of course, users have to give permission to Facebook for the social media site to share access to your location. You can also control who sees where you are in this Facebook feature, much like Snap Maps; if you go into the settings of the Facebook "Nearby Friends" app, just click on "Friends" and adjust who can locate you.
Location features used on social media platforms like Snap Maps are raising the alarm among concerned parents who are justifiably worried about their child's privacy as well as their safety. Snapchat wrote in a blog post last Friday that the aim of its new feature was to "see what's happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!" Sounds innocent enough, right?
Unfortunately, not everyone is viewing the tracking device with such rose-colored glasses. Child safety group Childnet International was quick to criticize the new app in a blog post, calling out the incredibly specific nature of the tracking app:
Given how specific this new feature is on Snapchat – giving your location to a precise pinpoint on a map – we would encourage users not to share their location, especially with people they don’t know in person. It is important to be careful about who you share your location with, as it can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time.
Snapchat does offer a "ghost mode" option for those who would prefer not to be tracked. Here's how you can limit the people who can follow you on Snap Maps or go to ghost mode:
Navigate to your settings, which you can access from the new map.
Scroll down to “Who Can…” => See My Location. (If you navigated from the map, you’ll automatically be taken here).
Choose who can see your location, or swipe “Ghost Mode” on to disable sharing your location to anyone.
This is the reality we are living with, folks, but it's important to remember that you still have options. You can protect your privacy and your kid's privacy as well. It is still possible to exist without everyone knowing where you are at all times.
If you've been living in the dark about this new update or Facebook's feature in the past, make sure to check up on your own device and those of your kids — it might all sound like fun and games, but it's much, much more than that.