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Snapchat Snap Map: How to use it, turn it off – and is it even safe?

The latest addition to Snapchat is Snap Map, a new feature that lets you see where your friends are on a digital map. We explain what it is, how to use it, how to turn it off, and whether it’s safe or not.

What is Snapchat Snap Map?

With growing pressure from rival services like Instagram and WhatsApp, Snapchat is having to get more creative with new features. Its latest effort to one-up competitors is Snap Map, a digital map that lets you see where your friends are hanging out.

The idea is that if you can see you’ve got a friend nearby, you’ll find it much easier to arrange impromptu meet-ups. You can also see their snaps laid out across the map, which feels somewhat reminiscent of Twitter’s Periscope live-streaming service – that’s also map-based.

Here’s how Snapchat describes the feature: “With the Snap Map, you can view Snaps of sporting events, celebrations, breaking news, and more from all across the world. If you and a friend follow one another, you can share your locations with each other so you can see where they’re at and what’s going on around them! Plus, meeting up can be a cinch.”

snap map

Unsurprisingly, this location-sharing feature has led to concerns over privacy, which leads us onto the question of whether Snap Map is safe.

And in a curious move, we discovered that Snapchat seems to have removed the launch video for Snap Map, and has scrubbed the original launch blog post of any images.

However, a mirror has been posted to YouTube here:

Snap Map Privacy: Is Snapchat Snap Map safe?

The ire surrounding Snap Map is quickly growing. For instance, the BBC reports that some schools have criticised the feature, with one quoted as warning that it could be used to “build up a picture of home addresses, travel routes, schools and workplaces”.

And Rose Bray from the NSPCC said: “We know tech companies are constantly developing their platforms and we’d encourage them to provide signposted information for parents and young people, so they know how to keep themselves safe. Parents could be given a bit of warning, so they can look up the information before the new feature launches, and have a conversation with their child.”

Some of the staunchest criticism came from Loose Women’s Nadia Sawalha, who revealed in a Facebook video that her 14-year-old daughter didn’t have Ghost Mode on, and said: “This is so dangerous. I don’t know what you guys think but I think this is so dangerous. This is a step too far. I’m completely horrified by this…”

Here’s Nadia’s video:

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The important point to note is that as soon as you open Snap Map for the first time, you’ll be prompted to choose who you want to share your location with. This is Snapchat’s attempt to keep young people safe, by offering an opt-out feature that let’s you share your location with just a select few friends – or even no one at all.

In a statement, Snapchat said: ”The safety of our community is very important to us and we want to make sure that all Snapchatters, parents and educators have accurate information about how the Snap Map works.”

It continued: “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. 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.”

The problem is that children may be activating the feature without their parent’s knowledge, without fully comprehending the safety concerns. In a response to Sawalha’s Facebook post, one commenter said: “Absolutely disgraceful. Surely anything like this should be automatically disabled, so that the user has to turn it on. What worries me is that there will be a lot of parents who don’t even know that their children are on Snapchat, let alone having conversations about safe use of these apps.”


And speaking to BBC Breakfast, one mother named Paula said she was surprised to discover her 11-year-old son had chosen to share his location using Snap Map: “I didn’t know anything about it. Somebody had told him about it, one of his friends at school. I was a little bit worried about he fact that you could be pinpointed. Obviously there are predators, there are bullies.”

It seems that although Snapchat does give users the option to opt in and out of the Snap Map feature, it may need to do more to prevent children from sharing their location.

How to use Snap Map

To open the Snap Map, go to your Camera screen and then pinch your fingers inwards, as if you’re zooming out from a photo.

You’ll then see the Map, and probably a bunch of your friends dotted around it. Tap on a friend to start a chat, or alternatively see when their location was last updated.

(Note: Your own location will only be updated when you’re using Snapchat. This means if you’re out of the app, you won’t have your location endlessly tracked.)

snap map

You can search for a friend by tapping ‘Search’ at the top of the screen and typing in their name. It’s also possible to look through ‘Friends on the Snap Map’ to see everyone who’s currently sharing their location with you.

To return to your current location, tap the crosshair button in the bottom right-hand corner of the Map screen.

Disable Snap Map: How to turn Snap Map off and activate Ghost Mode

The first time you ever open the Snap Map, you’ll be prompted with options of who you want to share your location with. You can skip this and do it later – just head into the Settings button in the corner of the screen to adjust your choices.

You’ll be able to choose whether you want all of your friends to view your location, or just select friends – simply choose from a list.

It’s also possible to hide your location entirely with Ghost Mode, which means the Snap Map will never be updated with your own location.

snap map

If you don’t trust Ghost Mode to work, you can also try disabling Location Services for Snapchat in your smartphone’s actual settings.

It’s also important to remember that putting your phone in airplane mode – or powering the handset down completely – will prevent Snap Map from tracking your location. Turning GPS, data, and Wi-Fi connectivity off should also prevent tracking.

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What do you think of Snapchat Snap Maps? Let us know in the comments.

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