Safety Concerns Issued Regarding Snapchat Live Maps

SNAPCHAT users are being warned of the inherent dangers associated with the opt-in ‘Snap Map’ feature that can allow live locations to be visible to other users.

In the run-up to Safer Internet Day, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) is urging users to be vigilant when using the feature which, when opted-in, grants the app permission to publish your exact location to everyone on your friend list.

Every time a Snap Map user opens Snapchat on their phone, their location on the map is updated in real-time. For many users, the popular app will be opened frequently throughout the day, therefore logging their every movement.

Cyber security experts are warning users and the parents of users that this feature could be used by a range of criminals, from potential burglars through to paedophiles and stalkers.

Gerry Grant, Chief Ethical Hacker with the SBRC, said: “Unfortunately many users don’t fully appreciate what they are signing themselves up to when they accept the terms and conditions of this update.

“If you have accepted connections with strangers this feature has the potential to turn Snapchat into a surveillance programme – posing a very real threat to users’ safety.

“This does happen. In the digital realm, the usual social boundaries are broken down. Some people take kudos in having a large number of ‘followers’ and ‘friends’, meaning they don’t filter out strangers in the same, rational way you would in the real world.

“In the wrong hands, this service could be abused. If a stalker made it onto your friends’ list, they would know exactly where you are whenever you open the app.”

Given Snapchatters’ propensity to post media content when they are out and about, potential stalkers could see when a user has been drinking or is walking home alone, for example.

Snapchat users would be well advised:

  • To not under any circumstances accept connections with strangers
  • To choose a small selection of friends, if you would like to use the feature
  • To take real care when using the Snap Map feature, consider using ‘Ghost Mode’ if you would like to see updates from friends without revealing your location
  • To routinely check back over connections and question whether they can be trusted as genuine
  • To have a discussion with a trusted friend, guardian or parent about the app if you are unsure or feel pressure to be involved

A recently updated and easy to follow factsheet, highlighting key information around Snapchat and guidance on safe and proper use of the app is available at: https://www.sbrcentre.co.uk/services/cyber-security-factsheets/

Safer Internet Day 2018 will be celebrated globally on Tuesday 6th February 2018 with the slogan “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you”.