With more than 158 million users, Snapchat is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media platforms.
But as Snapchat tries to roll out new features, the company may run the risk of alienating part of its audience. Case in point: Snap Maps, a new component of the ubiquitous smartphone app.
On its surface, Snap Maps seems like a lot of fun. It organized uploaded videos and pictures (“Snaps,” if you’re new to the game) by location, allowing your friends to see exactly where you were when you started building your Snapchat Story.
“Interestingly, one of the habits we’ve seen with our users is that they’ll take a snap where they are, put on the geofilter, and post it to their story with a caption like ‘hit me up.’ They’re basically saying come hang out with me here. Then, when they leave there they’ll delete that from their story.”
Unfortunately, that’s not all Snap Maps does.
By default, the new features broadcasts users’ locations every time they sign into the app—not just when they post to their Story. That has prompted an outcry from Snapchat users.
The potential problem is that some users might use the new feature to stalk or harass other people. Given that a significant portion of Snapchat’s user base is fairly young, some media outlets have criticized the feature as potentially exploitative.
To be fair, Snap Maps is an opt-in feature, which means that you’ll have to click through a few screens to give your consent before you actually use it. Still, the app isn’t exactly clear on what it means when it offers to “share your location,” and some users might not understand that it regularly broadcasts their exact locations.
You can easily turn off Snap Maps by following these instructions.
First, open up the Snapchat app. Navigate to the Snap Map, then tap the Settings button, located in the upper-right corner. Select the option for “Only Me (Ghost Mode).”
You can also use this menu to restrict your location information to friends (either your entire friend list or a select group of people).
We should note that Snapchat’s functionality isn’t unique; other social media sites have similar features that notify users when friends are nearby. Still, if you’re concerned about your privacy, you’re not alone—almost immediately after the announcement of Snap Maps, Twitter was full of angry people.
The company may roll back some components of Snap Maps as a result, but we wouldn’t hold our breath. In the meantime, you’re better off taking your privacy in your own hands (and carefully reading those location request pop-ups when they suddenly appear in your favorite apps).