A New Snapchat feature can provide more monitoring of your kids

Been to school, the store, or at a friend's house? By purchasing a Snapchat subscription, parents can see a 24-hour "recording" of children’s movements on a map.

Choose language in the Google-box below. Some translations may be flawed or inaccurate.

This summer, the popular social media app Snapchat launched a new subscription feature. By paying an annual (479 Kr.) or monthly amount (49 Kr.), you can get access to some unique features:

  • Ghost tracks on the map (see friends’ movements over the past 24 hours on a map)
  • Option to mark someone as “best friend” in the app
  • Option to see if friends have viewed your stories repeatedly
  • A separate mark next to the username indicating a subscription
  • A solar system (a kind of map) that shows what rank you have with your friends. For example, if you are someone’s best friend or third best friend

The first feature is perhaps the most remarkable since one can now see a 24-hour recording of one’s child’s movements on a map.

Read a detailed Snapchat review here.

«Snapchat has already had a map feature where you can see your friends’ location on a map every time they log in to the app. What is new is that you can see their movements over the past 24 hours in the form of yellow lines on a map. And vice versa, they can see your movements. Only the person who buys a subscription will have access to this feature,” says Trine Smedbold, legal advisor in the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet).

The app does not record every step you take but logs the location every time you open the app. See the snap map here.

Foto: Trine Smedbold, Legal Adviser at the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Ilja Hendel)

Who is watching you?

One of the challenges with Snapchat’s subscription solutions is that it’s hard to know exactly who in your friend list is keeping track of your movements.

«You can choose who you want to share the map location with on Snapchat, but you are not told who has acquired a Plus subscription. And this can create uncertainty about who is monitoring you,» Smedbold points out.

The adviser is skeptical about the new feature and believes that it could lead to more monitoring than before.

«People share a lot more information than before. It is a form of monitoring of movements you make throughout the whole day. In this way, others gain insight into where you live, where you go to school, and which way you go to get there. It says something about what habits you have, what places you usually visit, and more. After all, it is quite invasive in a person’s private life,” Says Smedbold.

(The image above is not real, but an edited version of the snap map to show what the new map feature looks like.)

But is it so dangerous?

Smedbold believes there is obviously room for abuse with the new feature in Snapchat. If children and young people have someone on their friend list who has bad intentions, it is possible for him/her to follow the child digitally.

“Many children and young people use the app, and some children may be less critical of who they add as friends on Snapchat. Children tend to use new features faster than adults, and some can share a lot of information about themselves,” says Smedbold.

The advisor points out that it is difficult to say in plain language whether the new Snapchat feature is illegal or not.

“At the same time, the map function is based on consent. You choose in the app whether you want to share your position with others or not, as well as who you share this with,” Smedbold points out.

Recommend children and young people to take a “safety test”

Smedbold’s advice to children and young people is to double-check with whom they share their location in the app. In addition, for using the new feature, consider whether one is comfortable sharing this type of information with others or not.

“And for those who don’t mind friends seeing movements on a map, you should only share this with friends you trust. Depending on your age, you may want to go through the settings with an adult and agree on what is okay or not okay to share,” Smedbold concludes.

How to change location sharing in Snapchat:

Go to the snap map (tap the little pin in the bottom left corner of the app) > press the gear in the upper corner:

Choose Ghost Mode so as not to share locations with others at all. Alternatively, turn this off and select ‘Only These Friends’ to only share locations with selected users of the app.

If you want to fully protect yourself, you can also turn off the app’s ability to use GPS / location in the mobile’s settings.

Photo: Main image by Rachel Moon (Shutterstock). Screenshot is taken from Snapchat (edited)

(Translated from Norwegian by Ratan Samadder)