Snapchat Scaremongering

A lot of noise has been made about the latest update to Snapchat, which includes the feature to be able to see your friend’s location on a map in real-time. News of this feature has got a lot of people concerned about the privacy of their devices. 

Listening to my local radio station breakfast show this morning, they were discussing these new features. Being a small town Tasmanian station, they weren’t the most technically proficient of people. A lot of misinformation was being spread about the feature, and the security risks involved.

Now, I’m not the most adept person at the world of Snapchat, but I know enough about phone security and privacy to be able to sift the fact from the fiction.

  1. The new location feature isn’t turned on by default.
    To activate this feature, from your camera screen on Snapchat, pinch on the screen. From there, you’re given the option to turn the feature on for everyone, select friends, or stay hidden (in ghost mode). I have my location available to only 3 people, My wife, Kayla; her mother; and her sister, whom we speak to every day. Other than that, nobody needs to know where I am or what I’m doing.
  2. The location feature isn’t active unless you’re using the app.
    The iPhone version of the app doesn’t use your location unless you have the app open. iPhone privacy settings have the location data for apps like Snapchat set to ‘while using’ by default. So basically, if the app is closed, your location remains private. It’s worth looking through the location settings on your phone to check what apps actually use your location and why. The only apps on my phone that track my location all the time are my maps apps, and my weather app.
  3. Don’t pry into your kids accounts or ban the app.
    One of the things suggested by the breakfast announcer this morning was to have a look at the app and check your kids accounts. That idea has the huge potential to backfire. There’s no faster way to lose the trust and respect of your kids than trying to pry into their social lives. Even worse would be to try to ban them for using the app, which would be akin to waving a red rag at a bull. I consider myself pretty lucky, growing up I had fairly liberal parents, so there wasn’t much that wasn’t allowed, however if something is banned, it makes the child/teenage mind crave that thing more, and they’ll find a way.
  4. Talk to your kids about online safety.
    Rather than trying to ban their use, talk to your kids about online safety. Its become a very serious issue very quickly, and can catch a lot of parents off guard. Sit down and make sure your kids understand that putting your location out there, or leaving your snaps unprotected, can open up attention from undesirable people. Its worth showing your kids some ‘To Catch a Predator’ (there’s heaps of episodes on YouTube), sure the series is quite old, and its aged horribly, but its core principle is a sage reminder that not everyone out there is who they may seem. Another great documentary to watch is Catfish, as well as its subsequent television series which goes by the same name, which again shows how easy it is for people to fake who they are online. There’s even software out there that can fake Snapchat images and videos.

Hopefully there’s some info that can help sort out some of the issues people have raised regarding privacy and being in control of who can see your location.

I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Be Kind



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