In 2017, Snapchat launched Snap Map, a feature that lets you see where your friends are, and lets your friends see where you are. It sounds creepy, but isn’t activated by default. Nonetheless, not many users know much about Snap Map. Which is worrying.
So, how safe is Snapchat Map? Can you turn your location off on Snapchat? And can you spoof your location to prank friends or maintain your privacy? In this article, we’ll answer all of your questions about Snap Map.
What Is Snap Map?
Snap Map is an intuitive world map built into Snapchat that gives you a detailed look at where people are Snapping from at any given moment.
To access the Snapchat Map, open the app to the default camera screen then swipe downwards. Snap Map will open and you’ll need to click Allow. To see other people’s locations, you have to let Snapchat see yours.
With Snap Map open, you’ll see the Bitmojis of your friends, showing their exact location. It’s accurate to within a few meters. Heat maps will show areas with lots of activity. There’s also a scattering of popular events. Click on these to see a Story made up of various users’ Snaps.
And if you click elsewhere on the map, you can see recent snaps recorded at that location. These are recorded in Our Story, an image or video shared to a public channel. (You need to learn common Snapchat terminology
before sharing too much on the app.)
Who Can See Your Location on Snapchat?
The first time you use Snap Map, you’ll be asked to select your privacy settings. You can also change those settings by clicking the gear icon at the top-right corner of the map:
- Ghost Mode hides your location and removes your last location from Snapchat entirely.
- My Friends gives you the option to allow all of your friends to see your location on the map. Or, you can opt to only allow specific friends to see your location.
Your location is only shared when you have the app open on your smartphone.
Should You Worry About Snapchat Map Tracking You?
An app having access to your location should be a red flag straight away. But many apps need this data. So what’s the problem with Snapchat tracking you too?
One issue is that, when people have selected their privacy settings, they tend to completely forget they’ve even activated Snap Map. If you’re on the app, you could unintentionally broadcast your location.
That has all sorts of ramifications that should make users and parents concerned. Here are just four reasons Snap Maps could be troublesome.
1. Snap Map Could Put Users at Serious Risk
Imagine you accept a Snapchat friend request from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or someone you’ve just met. And you’ve set your Snap Map settings to share your location with all of your friends.
Every time you open Snapchat, that person who you barely know will know exactly where you are. This is worrying in itself. But when you take into account that a good chunk of Snapchat’s users are young teenagers, it’s especially alarming.
If you want to see how troubling this is, watch this video: a man adds a young girl on Snapchat, and simply finds exactly where she’s hanging out in a local park.
2. Snap Map Destroys Your Privacy
Pretending you’re too unwell to go to work? Told your friends you’re too busy to come out? Hoping to avoid someone while you’re at the mall? Don’t want people to know you’re home? Be careful. Snapchat has made getting away with any of this much harder.
All it takes is a friend on Snapchat to notice where you actually are. You could be in trouble with your friends, or even your boss. It’s a rookie mistake, but does happens.
3. Snap Map Can Strain Relationships
Knowing who’s hanging out with each other at any time can undoubtedly put a strain on relationships. Knowing you’ve been excluded from a meetup can sour your friendship. In some cases, ignorance is bliss—especially if the reason for your exclusion is perfectly innocent.
Snap map really out here ruining friendships btw pic.twitter.com/WyL7fuc3D5
— ryan (@katyswetdream) July 16, 2017
But Snap Map has also been the cause of affairs being outed. And incorrect accusations when partners jump to the wrong conclusions after seeing a Bitmoji hanging with someone else.
All because they forgot to put their Snap Map on Ghost Mode.
4. Snap Map Could Let Everyone Know Where You Are
When you post to Our Story, you give Snapchat permission to include that snap in Discovery—and on the Snap Map if they so wish. That means that potentially anyone could see that snap (though not your username).
It’s vital you know this before posting to Our Story. The feature is community-based, so Snap Map’s inclusion is important. But how many who post to Our Story know their location can be seen by strangers?
It could leave you with an uncomfortable feeling of being a fly on the wall at private family events, dates, nights out, and even inside schools.
How to Turn Off Your Location on Snapchat Map
First off, if you don’t want potentially the entire world seeing a snap, don’t post it to Our Story. Second, if you’re having second thoughts about Snap Map, and don’t want your friends to know exactly where you are, activate Ghost Mode right now. It only takes a second.
To turn off the location feature on Snapchat, do this:
- Open the app and go to Snap Map by swiping down.
- Click the Gear icon at the top-right of the screen.
- Activate Ghost Mode. When asked how long for, select Until turned off.
Now, Snap Map will never share your location.
To go one step further, you could entirely disable location settings from Snapchat via the settings menu on your smartphone. To turn off Snap Map on iPhone, for instance, go to Settings > Snapchat > Location then toggle to either Never or Ask Next Time. This would, however, limit features like Snapchat’s geofilters
, which activate according to where you are.
While you’re there, you may also want to turn off Allow friends to request my location.
How Long Does Your Location Stay on Snapchat Map?
Snap Map has its limitations. Where someone shows up on the Map depends entirely on when they last opened Snapchat. It doesn’t constantly send notifications wherever you go.
Similarly, if you device can’t connect to Wi-Fi, your location won’t update.
And if you leave the app unopened for long enough, Snap Map should delete your location after between six and eight hours.
How to Change Your Location on Snapchat Map
Can you spoof your location on Snapchat? It’s a natural enough question, especially if you’re worried that Snapchat is tracking you. Snapchat makes it difficult to change your location—that is, without major tampering with your smartphone, involving jailbreaking. It even blocks some VPNs.
If you don’t want specific people knowing where you are, but don’t want to use Ghost Mode, don’t open Snapchat. Let’s say you’re supposed to be at home, but need to pop out. Use Snapchat while at home; don’t use it when you’re down the shops. Snap Map should show you still at home as long as you don’t open the app elsewhere. You could also log out of the app before you leave the place you want Snap Map to show.
Your best option is going to your Settings, clicking on Snapchat, and altering location to Ask Next Time. Each time you go on the app, Snap Map won’t automatically connect to your phone’s GPS. You can decide to turn the Map on or leave it off every time you sign in.
A word of warning about faking locations: Spoofing your location may result in an instant ban from Snapchat.
To do this, you need to spoof your smartphone’s location using a third-party. Snapchat leeches off your device’s GPS to ascertain where you are. You can obviously search in your app store for “fake GPS location” but take note of how much they cost. While most offer free trials, some revert to subscriptions soon afterwards.
Fake GPS Location for Android is simple to navigate, as is Fake GPS Location for iPhone. Other services require you to tamper with your smartphone via Windows or Mac. Notably, iTools offers location masking alongside a range of other features like customizable ringtones and additional back-ups.
A word of warning: Snapchat will ban you immediately if it recognizes that you’ve suddenly moved halfway around the world. If you’re going to change location, don’t change it drastically. Even then, you could be stopped from using Snapchat altogether.
How to Keep Your Snap Map Secure
First, decide if you really need Snap Map. If not, don’t activate it. Click Ask Next Time in Settings if you want to use geofilters and decide on a case-by-case basis if you need Snap Map.
Know your Snap Map privacy settings. Remember: Ghost Mode means your friends can’t track you everywhere you go.
And if you’re a parent worried about your children using Snapchat, just have a sensible discussion with them about safety. There’s no point banning it and making them feel left out of friendship groups. In most circumstances, the app isn’t harmful. Nonetheless, you should brush up on your knowledge of some basic Snapchat security tips
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