Snapchat goes local: Snap Maps sparks privacy fears


Snapchat has introduced a map feature that lets users track other people’s location in real time, a move that could open new doors to marketers, but also sparking concerns among safety and privacy advocates.


"Snap Maps", launched last week, plots users and their snaps onto a map so friends and other Snapchatters can see where they are and what they are doing.

If two users follow each other, they can share their locations and see where the other person is and what they are doing.

The idea is that users can stay up to date with their friend’s lives and meet up easily.

“We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world! See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!” said the company in a blogpost announcing the update.

When they first use the feature, users can select whether they want to make their location visible to all of their friends, a select group of connections or to no one at all, which Snapchat refers to as “ghost mode”.

Marketing opportunities?

Snap Map could pave a path for Snapchat to boost its position among location-minded marketers.

However, Snapchat is not currently running ads alongside Stories accessed through Snap Map or selling a way for brands to place a promoted Story or location on people’s maps.

The real opportunity for marketers with Snap Maps is taking advantage of the context.

According to Snap’s company blog post announcing Snap Maps, the feature is meant for people to “see what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!”

That means ads within Snap Maps could be better positioned to get people to go to a brand-related location than ads placed elsewhere in Snapchat.

For example, a retailer running a sale could target Snap Map Story viewers because those people may be looking for something to do in a city, as opposed to people browsing their normal Stories feed who are more likely just looking for something to watch.

Privacy fears

The new feature has raised concerns among safety experts who fear it could be used to stalk or bully others.

“Given how specific this new feature is on Snapchat – giving your location to a precise pinpoint on a map – we would encourage users not to share their location, especially with people they don’t know in person,” said child safety group Childnet International in a blogpost.

“It is important to be careful about who you share your location with, as it can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time.”

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