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Parents, Schools Concerned Over Snapchat's Tracking Map

Schools and parents are becoming concerned over a location-sharing feature in Snapchat shows a detailed map of children’s physical movements.

The snappily named “Snap Map” is an opt-in feature that lets users share their real-time location with friends. This is presented in the form of an interactive map with links to photos and videos that have been uploaded to the social networking and messaging service, along with where exactly that media was uploaded and by whom: Users are presented as cartoon avatars.

The BBC obtained letters from a few concerned schools that point out the ability that the map has to physically track children. One said the feature presented "serious safeguarding concerns,” while another one noted that it allows users to "build up a picture of home addresses, travel routes, schools and workplaces".

The company said that the map is not for public consumption.

"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,” Snap said in a statement. “The majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends.”

Only those on a user’s friends list can see location information—however, many users have friends they have never met in real life.

"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," Rose Bray, a spokesperson from the NSPCC, told the BBC. "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."

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