Snapchat map raises privacy concerns


Sunny Yu

Alice Hou (‘20) holds her phone showing her Snapchat map.

It is easy for a Snapchat user to know where their friends are – they click on the app, scroll down and boom, the world is before their eyes. The user has access to not only the world map but also the locations of their friends on the map, as well as the time at which their friends last opened Snapchat.

Snap Maps, a feature that came out in 2017, allows users to share their locations and see where their contacts are. The feature is easy to use and accessible to all Snapchat users. With the new Snapchat map update feature, users can receive updates on when, where, and how their friends travel. Of course, the ghost mode allows users to remain invisible on the map if they like. 

Stevie Ortiz (‘23) said, “I think Snapchat map is a good place to know where our friends are and see if we can join them.”

Many users enjoy the feature because it allows them to know where their friends are so that they can easily arrange to meet up. Other users simply enjoy the feature as they find it an entertaining way to spend their time .

Elizabeth Wang (‘21) said, “Snapchat map is another way to socialize… I check the map when I am bored to see how many friends I have in a specific state or area. I am normally on ghost mode. I would only turn off ghost mode when I travel to meet up with friends so that we know how close we are to each other.”

Chris Ma (‘20) said, “I am always visible because I want people to know where I am so it is easier for me to hang out with friends… I would say that it would be good to send users notifications if there are friends on the map who are around us.”

Although the idea of sharing your location with others purport to evoke privacy concerns, most users find the experience rather pleasant. Luckily for Webb boarders, security concerns become less of an issue when their locations are present on the map because all of their friends know that they are somewhere on campus.

Carol Kang (‘21) said, “I check my map quite often to see where everyone is, especially to check on the friends I do not meet often to see how they are doing… I am not on ghost mode because I live at Webb; there is nothing to lose. I do not think there is any security concern because all my friends on Snapchat are close friends.”

Elizabeth said, “Snapchat map is interesting because you can see exactly where your friends are in the world, as specific as the street address and building… There are privacy concerns, but it is also a choice since we can control whether people can access our location on the map or not.”

Users can decide whether to fully turn off ghost mode or, alternatively, choose a few specific people with whom they do or do not want to share their location. 

Stevie said, “I am only visible to a specific group of friends because I do not want everyone to know where I am. Especially for the friends I add on quick add, I do not want them to know where I am because I do not know them well.”

Elaine Shao (‘21) said, “I only choose a few close friends to see my location.”

Nancy Lin (‘23) said, “I think that it is safe to use because you can determine who sees your location.”

Despite the many reasons why Snapchat users enjoy the feature, there are still some safety and privacy concerns. The location feature can be very accurate; it allows users to see one’s location down to street names and specific buildings. For example, you would be able to tell if someone is at a pool party, a concert, or a soccer match just by zooming in on their specific location on the map.

Carol said, “I would turn on ghost mode when I go home because I do not want people to know the street I live on.”

In the 21st century, with the increasing usage of social media, anything that expands our digital footprint will evoke privacy and location issues that may lead to safety concerns. Therefore, we need to be careful when using applications like Snapchat.

Carol said, “So far there have not been many problems or concerns regarding Snapchat map, so I think it’s pretty safe to use the feature.”

Like most social media features, the Snapchat map feature brings people closer together by allowing one to access their friends’ locations.

While this Snapchat map feature may have made users’ lives more convenient and entertaining, users should keep the safety precautions in mind when using this app in the future.