Snapchat's location feature has critics and fans
By ABIGAIL DesVERGNES
Jul. 17, 2017
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — Do you feel comfortable with your social media friends knowing your exact location at all times?
Well, with Snapchat's new feature — Snap Map — it's now possible, and that is raising concerns among Snapchat users, parents and law enforcers. Others, however, are embracing the feature.
Snapchat, an app that came out in 2011, has become an addiction for millennials everywhere.
Users send videos and pictures through the app that disappear in seconds, with filters that alter their faces.
Snap Map, is unlike anything ever seen on social media as it provides the user's exact location and location of their Snapchat friends on a map, detailed to the exact address.
It even goes as far as tracking someone as they are driving in a car so you can see what street your Snapchat friend is driving down.
This sort of GPS tracking frightened Attleboro resident Lauren Germaine, 17, who made the decision with the encouragement of her parents to go to the Snapchat settings and put her location on "ghost mode."
That mode allows users to not be shown on the Snap Map and their location will not be shared.
"You shouldn't be able to see where someone is 24/7, it's just unsafe," Germaine said. "I don't like the fact that anyone I'm friends with can see my location, whether I know them or not. They can see wherever you are, even if you're in a car and moving, and I think that's just a little bit too far."
Germaine's dad, Chris Germaine, 49, of Attleboro, encouraged his daughter to change her settings to "ghost mode" with fears of stalkers tracking down his daughter.
"It's very unnerving to think that people can see exactly where you are, what street you're on and how close you are; that's concerning and a pedophiles dream," he said.
Attleboro resident Kristie O'Hara, 15, agrees.
"I think it's creepy. I don't want people to see where I am." And with more than 600 friends — some of whom O'Hara doesn't know personally — sharing her location could be dangerous.
Seekonk Police Chief Craig Mace said Snap Map's location tracking is something predators could use to track down children, and is something that has to be taken seriously.
"If you decide not to be on ghost mode, you have to be careful and aware of what you're getting into," he said. "And who would want to be put into the situation where someone could constantly monitor you?"
It also is a danger when dealing with domestic violence.
Mace set up this scenario: "What if two people are in an argument and they both have shared locations on Snap Map. Either one of those people could track down the other person and know exactly where they are."
Mace advises Snap Map users to check their settings, especially after updating a phone, making sure to double check whether their location tracking is enabled for the app.
"Make the right decision. In my opinion, I would set it to ghost mode, just to be safe," he said.
Others don't perceive the new update as a danger, rather something that enables users to be connected with their friends on a new multimedia platform.
Attleboro resident Sarah Carello, 18, has enjoyed seeing where her friends are over the summer months. She said her Snapchat friends are mostly seen around the Attleboro area, besides a few summer vacationers.
Carello said she also finds the new feature helpful.
"If I see that one of my friends is at home I will ask them to hang out, whereas if I see they are at work I won't ask until their location says they are back home," she said.
Carello is not afraid of using the feature because she is friends with a select amount of people on Snapchat.
"I only add people who I know, so it's not as if anybody can see where I am -- well, hopefully not," she said.
Others are using the feature to their advantage.
Jax Adele, 31, of Attleboro is an entrepreneur and tries to always stay updated on all forms of social media. She often promotes events in the area including non-profit fundraisers and even Comic Con.
As a promoter, Adele chooses to stay public on her Snap Map so people in the area can see the promotional advertising she does through the app.
She will now be using Snap Map as a new platform to promote coming events in the area.
"I try to utilize all forms of social media for my job. I want to make sure that I am aware of all the different media outlets," Adele said.
Adele also likes to use it just for fun.
One of her favorite functions on Snap Map is being able to customize her bitmoji — an animated character that often resembles the Snapchat user and appears on the Snap Map. Users are able to customize their bitmoji to their liking, and even choose what outfit it wears.
Adele loves changing her bitmoji's outfits — one of her favorites is the rainbow unicorn costume.
"I have way too much fun," she said.
Recently, she traveled to the Tampa area for a vacation and enjoyed watching as her bitmoji traveled down the coast to her vacation destination.
Although Adele isn't afraid of the new location tracker, she understands the dangers behind the feature, especially for younger kids.
"I think sometimes kids just add whoever on their Snapchat, whether they know them or not, and in that case I see the danger," she said. "If it's used correctly, with the right safety precautions, I think it can be a fun feature, but just like all forms of social media, you have to be aware."
Information from: The (Attleboro, Mass.) Sun Chronicle, http://www.thesunchronicle.com