Gordon Smith

Cloaking your footprint on Snapchat’s new tracking feature

Snapchat

Snapchat have released their new “Snap Map” feature, that may be used to track users. Beating the system is easy, but ultimately necessary.

 

 

 

We may relish in our chance to bathe in the technological oasis, but for all its ever-improving bells and whistles, it seems we may be losing our appreciation for one of humanity’s greatest innovations: our privacy.

This week, Snapchat unrolled its new “Snap Map” feature, allowing users to see exactly when and where their friends had been taking their pictures.

The opt-in addition made itself known by popping into the inboxes of users worldwide, nudging them to share their location by posting their snaps to the publicly visible “Our Story” album.

The teaser shows people using the stream as a means of creating a collection of snaps from a particular event, but neglects to mention its less than honest method of sharing one’s location.

With no mention of it at all during setup, Snapchat begins sharing the user’s location every time the app is opened – not simply when the user opts to share their image publicly, like the teaser video demonstrates.

One user has already demonstrated the ease at which someone can inadvertently broadcast their location, to the point that they were able to find the address of a friend whose house they had never been to.

While Snapchat might be making headlines with its stalking potential, Facebook has been there and done that.

In 2014 Facebook implemented its “Nearby Friends” feature, which, admittedly, might be slightly safer, showing a user’s neighbourhood, rather than an infinitely creepier map.

Users can use the feature to see where their friends are, and who they are with, ensuring maximum fear of missing out.


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The feature sounds like an innocent method of keeping up to date with the movements of loved ones, but considering the company is currently headed to a lawsuit over its lack of respect for users’ privacy, the less you know may be better.

Some Facebook users have even reported seeing their pictures used for advertisements, or their name used for endorsement of a business they had “liked” on the platform.

Sure, you can adjust which – or all – of your friends can see your location, but considering the murky nature of the social media giant’s terms and conditions, whether you can trust the change in settings is anybody’s guess.

If you value your right to not have your information used to feed advertisers, you may be better served by disabling the feature altogether.

This can be done by entering the “Explore” tab in the menu of your device’s Facebook app.

After selecting “Nearby Friends”, you will be greeted with an unnerving list of nearby friends, friends travelling, and other locations, such as previous places you have lived or travelled to frequently.

Next, select the gear button in the top right-hand corner, then tap the “Nearby Friends” button at the very top to disable the feature.


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If you’re a little more head of times and want to stop Snapchat mapping your every move, you’ll have to tap the gear in the top right while viewing the Snap Map, then select Ghost Mode.

Of course, all of this only applies if you are at all concerned about multi-million dollar businesses keeping track of where you are, and what you’re doing.

In exchange, you can find your friends just a little bit more easily, and a lot more uncomfortably, than you could through the standard text message or phone call.

If that sounds like a fair trade off, then you’re free to let your device’s location services beam far and wide.

Just don’t expect much sympathy if next time you’re scrolling through your news feed you spot yourself pushing discount Viagra to the worldwide web.

 

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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