One of my initial internet safety tips for parents is to turn off location data for their camera. Many of them do this immediately upon hearing my advice. The problem, however, is that they then jump over to Facebook and Snapchat to use that camera and their location settings are as public as can be. Today’s news gives us even more information about how your location data is used by Snapchat and Snapmap.
Snap has opened up the ability to “embed” a snap into a website. This means that if your snap is public, a code can be copied and pasted so that your post shows up on the site that contains the embed code. It’s easy to do and really isn’t a new concept since public Facebook videos and photos can be embedded by default as well. I’ve embedded a snap from Disney on Ice in Des Plaines, Illinois:
Snapmap went into browsers today. This means that you don’t have to have the Snapchat app to see public posts overlayed onto a map of anywhere in the world. Concentrations of Snaps show up as colored dots that range from light blue (few Snaps) to bright red (high concentration of Snaps.) When you click on these colors you see the Snaps in a slideshow style format. They appear as most recent first and move to the past as you click or watch until the end of each post.
Most of the Snap-map posts highlight breaking news (i.e. the recent ice storm in my area or a basketball game or concert) but it will sometimes feature posts from the general user if their posts are relevant and set to public. Posts are curated by a team of news editors. The idea is that Snapchat wants news organizations and sites to use their map to highlight current events and breaking news in real time. This offers a real opportunity to see real news, as it happens. It could also be dangerous if your kids aren’t setting their Snapchat settings to private or friends only.
What Parents Should Know
Location privacy is a major concern for parents. We post more of our private lives online than ever before and a map that highlights where we are and what we are up to can be considered a privacy disaster. Especially when it comes to our kids. Users of Snapchat are meant to be 13 years old or older. Some kids under than 13 spend a lot of time on the app, though, and their snaps are, therefore, available to be used as news coverage on this public map. I consider this a real problem for parents.
I would recommend that if your kids use Snapchat, you ensure that they have their profiles set to private or friends only. Disable the Snapmap (put it in Ghost Mode) so that what they are posting won’t show up. Not taking these precautions could lead to your home address being featured on Snapchat’s map and even someone else’s website. Take location privacy serious. Talk to your kids about staying private, encourage them to never post anything they wouldn’t be comfortable being seen by anyone in the world. The internet isn’t private and social media is growing increasingly more public. Your kids need to understand that.