Snapchat tries to calm parents' fears in row over 'map'
Snapchat has moved to allay fears by parents' groups over a new feature that shows a Snapchat user's location on a map.
The feature, called Snap Map, is an opt-in service which users have to switch on to choose how public they want their location to be. While privacy is the default option, a user can select a public setting, showing their location on the new map to friends whenever they use the service.
Surveys show that Snapchat is now the most used texting and photo-swapping service among Irish teenagers and children. However, the same surveys show it is the least used major social media service among parents.
Reports of the map move by Snapchat has caused some Irish parents and child welfare groups to issue statements urging parents to be aware of what their children are doing online.
Radio shows and other media have speculated that the feature could be used as a stalking tool for predators.
Cliona Curley, programme director at CyberSafeIreland, said children should be encouraged not to share their location with strangers.
In response, a spokeswoman for Snapchat said that the feature was designed to be accessible only by friends of a Snapchat user.
"With Snap Map, location-sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional," said the spokeswoman. "Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time. It's also not possible to share your location with someone who isn't already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends."
The new Snap Map feature has three settings which vary between location awareness to all friends, a select number of friends or a 'ghost mode', where the user's physical location is viewable to no-one.
"The safety of our community is very important to us and we want to make sure that all Snapchatters, parents and educators have accurate information about how the Snap Map works," said a Snapchat spokeswoman.
Snapchat differs from other social media and messaging services with the disappearing nature of its posts. Texts, photo messages and video-blog 'stories' have a lifespan of between a few seconds and 24 hours on the service.
According to Ipsos MRBI, 26pc of over-15s use Snapchat in Ireland, with tens of thousands more under that age using it.