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5 things you should know about Snapchat’s latest feature Snap Map

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-07-2017 Nitin Sreedhar

Tracking someone through their smartphone GPS or mobile data sounds like something right out of Stalking For Dummies. This is precisely why Snapchat’s Snap Map feature has been shrouded in controversy ever since its release last month.

But what is Snap Map? This new feature gives users the option of sharing their real-time location on an interactive map with friends. Various reports and privacy experts suggest it could be used to stalk or bully young users. Though there are no conclusive figures, Snapchat is said to be one of the most popular social networking apps in the country, with most of its user base comprising millennials. No wonder parents are worried.

Here are five things to know about Snap Map if you are a frequent Snapchatter or an anxious parent.

1. How do you access Snap Map?

As soon as you launch Snapchat on your smartphone, the first thing you see is the camera window. To enter Snap Map, you need to pinch the screen—just like you would pinch to zoom out of a picture. The camera window then fades into an interactive global map and shows you the location of your friends. They pop up on the map as bitmojis, their cartoon avatars. When you tap on a bitmoji, Snap Map gives you the option of chatting with the friend. You can also use the search bar on the top to find a friend on the map. The “Friends on the map” feature gives you the list of friends who are sharing their location.

When you tap on a bitmoji, Snap Map gives you the option of chatting with the friend.

2. Customizable privacy settings

When you enter Snap Map for the first time, it prompts you with three location options: Only Me (Ghost Mode), My Friends or Select Friends. As Snapchat mentions in its blog—“you decide if you want to share your location with friends, or simply keep it to yourself with Ghost Mode.” When the Ghost Mode is enabled, your location will not be visible. In the My Friends option, all your contacts who are using Snapchat will be able to see your real-time location. The last option lets you choose if you want only specific friends to know your location. So privacy control is in the user’s hands.

3. Can you disable it?

Snap Map does not get activated on its own. It’s only when you launch it from within Snapchat that your location becomes visible. If you want to disable this feature, you can turn off the location services for the Snapchat app from your phone settings. Location services allow apps and websites to use your Wi-Fi, GPS and mobile data to pinpoint your location.

If you are not using the app, your location won’t go up on Snap Map.

4. The heat spots

If you don’t see any friends on the map, you are bound to come across heat spots scattered across it. These are “Our story” snaps that have been shared publicly by Snapchat users. Once you tap a heat spot, it starts blinking. If you then use a long-press on that spot, the story starts playing. Disclaimer: This could be random content put out by random Snapchat users.

5. Does it track you all the time?

No, it doesn’t. If you are not using the app, your location won’t go up on Snap Map. If you are still unsure about the settings, then it is always a good idea to refrain from adding unknown people on Snapchat. Or you could customize the privacy settings so that only specific friends can see your location.

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