Snapchat’s new Snap Map feature may pose a threat to victims and survivors
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
Written by: Maggie Nicholson, Team Leader and Youth Advocate, YWCA Central Massachusetts
While social media is designed to connect people and communities, there are always potential consequences with sharing your personal information online. Sometimes this may be as simple as not wanting aspects of your lifestyle shared with certain friends or family members, but there are more serious risks to consider, as well. One popular social media app is Snapchat, where users can post pictures or short videos that expire after a few seconds if sent directly to someone, or 24 hours if posted to their Story. On June 21, Snapchat added a feature called Snap Map, where users can see where their Snapchat friends are located on a map.
In this new feature, users can see others’ exact locations on a map any time they open the app. As a domestic violence advocate, I immediately thought first of how this can endanger anyone in a domestic/sexual violence or stalking situation. While some of us may simply prefer more privacy when it comes to social media sharing, relationship violence adds a concerning layer to this app feature. Many victims and survivors are closely monitored by their abusive partners. Even if someone has left a violent relationship, they may still be connected to their abusive partner, or to the partner’s friends and family in some capacity. The abusive partner may still be stalking or monitoring the victim. Often, social media apps can keep people connected even after they’ve separated, if those people are not deliberately removed from friend lists or if the account connection is not purposefully severed. There is therefore serious risk here for Snapchat users who have concerns about others knowing their location.
Fortunately, you can still use Snapchat without using the Snap Map feature. To turn this feature off, use your fingers to zoom out when the Snapchat app is opened in the camera mode (instead of zooming in). You’ll be prompted to choose who can see your location. “Ghost Mode” is the setting that will prevent anyone using Snapchat from seeing where you are located. The app is not designed to automatically turn on your settings to reveal your location—that is, you have to choose to share your location—but this is the safest way to ensure your location isn’t shared with other Snapchat users.
Please talk to your friends, family, and, communities to help spread awareness about this feature and how to disable it to help support someone who may be in a violent relationship or has recently left such a relationship. Features like this are designed to connect us to each other, but we must always be aware of the potential safety concerns with sharing information in social media apps. Whether you have concerns about keeping your location confidential, or you just don’t want your friends to know how often you’re home watching Netflix, privacy and sharing in social media is an important topic to discuss.
Or, for information about how your organization can use social media in a trauma-informed way, listen to the recording of the National Latin@ Networks’ webinar on the topic here.
For more information about YWCA Central Massachusetts, visit http://www.ywcacentralmass.org/
YWCA 24-Hour Help Line: 508-755-9030
YWCA 24-Hour Chat Line: http://www.ywcahelp.com/