Does ‘Snap Map' overstep boundaries? | Experts, users weigh in

Snapchat sparks fear in parents with 'mapping' feature

AUSTIN - As more of us share our lives with friends online, some social media companies are raising eyebrows with each new update.

Snapchat's new mapping feature called “Snap Map” allows you to see your friends' location.

By tapping on a user’s avatar on the map, you can see where they are and what they last posted.

Some people KVUE spoke to in Austin think the new update is overstepping some boundaries.

"I think it's sort of an invasion of privacy,” said University of Texas student Charlize Price. “I'm just not about having people see my location at all times and know exactly where I am and what I'm doing.”

Price said she will keep her location on "ghost mode," a setting in the right hand corner of the map feature. It means your friends cannot see your location – only you can.

But UT student Arabella Ware said she thinks the feature is cool.

"You know where all your friends are,” she said. “You can see if people are together, but also if you don't want to be found on the map, you can go on ghost mode."

UT School of Information Associate Dean Philip Doty said Snapchat’s mapping feature is disappointing. Doty specializes in information surveillance and privacy.

"There appears to be very little understanding among brilliant technologists and business people about the threats, both potential and real, that fully integrating location data, with individual preference data … can pose a threat to both individuals and groups,” said Doty.

Snapchat has responded to the controversy in a statement released to ABC News:

“Safety of our community is very important to us, and we want to make sure all Snapchatters, parents and educators have accurate information about how the Snap Map works.”

A spokesperson for the company also said the following:

"With Snap Map, location-sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional. Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time," the spokesperson said. "It's also not possible to share your location with someone who isn't already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends."

Doty said geo location data is valuable to app developers and their advertising partners.

“Snapchat, just like Facebook, just like Instagram, the products they’re selling isn’t the application,” said Doty. “The product they’re selling is their customers and their data.”

Doty encourages parents to explore the app for themselves and talk to their kids about it.

"This should be part of the discussion you have with the young person that wants to use Snapchat,” Doty said. “It doesn't mean they shouldn't use it. If they do use it, they should decide which functions to use, which functions to disable and why they should do so."

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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