Snapchat's Snap Map feature creates safety concerns


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - One of the most popular apps for social media just added a new feature that's raising some safety concerns.

Snapchat has a new function called "Snap Map."

Snapchat introduced the feature last week. It's an opt-in function that lets people share their locations on a map, posting locations right down to the street they're on.

"Whenever you're snapping, wherever you're at, it's documenting your location of where you are at," explained Indiana State Police Cyber Crimes Youth Specialist Stephanie Nancarrow. "On mine right now, it tells you I'm on 21st Street. It has an outline of a person - that's me."

Snap Map broadcasts your location not just when you share a snap, but whenever you open the app, essentially showing where you work, where you play, the house where you live.

Adrianne Sims joined Snapchat because she has a teenager.

"So I can kind of keep up with what she's putting out there," Sims explained.

But Snap Map makes mom a little leery.

On Sims' phone, she could see friends and one of her cousin's locations, pinpointed on the app.

"If I click on her, it tells me exactly where the street she's at - the corner, everything. That's scary," Sims said. "And most of my friends are adults, so there aren't a lot on here. I'm sure if I went on my daughter's, hers, the entire screen would be lit up with her friends and where her friends are."

Police say for anyone, but especially teens, location sharing is potentially dangerous.

"It's giving out kids' addresses. It's giving out school info if they post at school, job info. Predators actually get drawn to this stuff - well now I get to see everything about this kid. I know what school they go to now. I know where they live. I know that they play baseball," Nancarrow said.

Like a lot of Snapchatters, some of Sims' daughter's friends on the app, who see her location, aren't people she's actually met in person.

"That means that random people can see when she's at work. They can see when she's going to and from work, where she lives, and that's too much information to have out there,” Sims said.

There are three modes to the map that you can select by pinching the screen where you’d normally snap a photo or video.

Those modes are: select friends, my friends and "ghost mode." Police recommend you select ghost mode, where you can see yourself on the map on snapchat, but you’re hidden from everyone else.

Cyber crime experts also recommend taking your safety even further.

"The best thing they can do is just turn off location services for the app completely," Nancarrow said. "This is for all apps, really. Location services should be off."

Sims plans to talk with her daughter and check her own settings on the app, to make sure a snap doesn't share too much with too many people.

"Once you put your information about your location out there, it's out there and it may be too late," Sims said.

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