Enable Ghost Mode in Snapchat NOW if you want to keep your location private

Hands up. I admit it. I’m not really of the Snapchat generation.

Somehow or another I manage to make my way through daily life without feeling the need to chat with online friends through the incredibly popular (apart from in my house) smartphone app.

Frankly, I’m worried – rightly or wrongly – that there might be something a little bit wrong about a man in his late-forties using Snapchat. I don’t know if I’m missing something important in my life by never having found a need for Snapchat, but I do recognise that many millions of people use it many times a day.

Which makes me somewhat concerned about a new feature that was introduced into Snapchat last week: Snap Map.

Maybe when you read about the new Snap Map functionality or saw the accompanying video, you thought it was fairly innocuous. Maybe you even imagined that the feature looked quite fun.

However, when I checked out the above Snapchat video on YouTube it had twice as many dislikes as thumbs-up.

Why? Well, my guess is that a fair number of people find Snapchat’s new Snap Map a creepy feature that could erode their privacy.

If you just watched the Snap Map promotional video, you might believe that Snapchat was only sharing users’ location when they tagged their location in Snaps they post to “Our Story”, but the truth is that your location is being monitored and broadcast constantly, as long as you have the app open or are actively using it.

Understandably, there are concerns that users will enable Snap Map’s sharing of their location without properly understanding how the system works, and its implications. Those concerns are heightened when one considers that typically Snapchat is used by younger smartphone users.

As Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports, the likes of Preston police force have warned via social media of the potential risks to children and teenagers:

For all the snapchat users on here, in the last few days they have released a new update which connects to your GPS, and automatically (unless activated ghost mode) shows where you are on a map to anyone who is on your friends list and posts can possibly seen publically depending on your settings!!

…Obviously this may cause concern for certain users, particularly those who have young children who use the app.

The concerns are shared by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC):

“It’s worrying that Snapchat is allowing under 18s to broadcast their location on the app where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contact lists.”

“With public accounts, this will include those who are not known to the user. This highlights why it’s vital children are automatically offered safer accounts on social media to ensure they are protected from unnecessary risks.”

The answer, of course, is to prevent Snap Map from broadcasting your location and perhaps be a little bit more choosy about who you add to your friends list.

Enter the Snap Map feature by going to your camera screen, and pinching your fingers as if you are zooming out from a photograph. Then, click on the settings icon in the top right-hand corner and you should be able to enable “Ghost Mode”.

Snapchat will now stop sharing your location.

If you, however, are concerned that the app may introduce more functionality in future which might trick you into unwittingly sharing your location you can go one step further by disabling the Snapchat’s ability to access your smartphone’s location entirely. You can do that by going to your phone’s Location Services’ settings, opening the options for Snapchat and ensuring that the “Location” option is off.

Stay safe everybody, and always be careful about enabling features that may not have been adequately explained to you.

by Graham Cluley, ESET We Live Security


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