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Schools Voice Privacy Concerns Over Snapchat Maps Feature

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

Snapchat’s Maps feature has faced criticism for putting user’s safety and privacy at risk, but where should the line be drawn?

Avid Snapchat users will be aware that an update was recently released which includes a feature called Snap Maps, which lets users share their real-time location with friends.

Police and child safety organisations have already warned of the potential privacy dangers of the feature and now many schools across the UK are following suit by warning parents that it could put their children at risk.

The feature can be switched off at any time, but schools have been quick to voice their “serious safeguarding concerns” of Snapchat’s location sharing capabilities.

Snapchat Map

Safety risk?

While some will say that the Snap Maps feature is simply the latest example of a technology company collecting location data on its users, there are valid arguments that point out the potential safety risks.

For example, some schools have warned that it could be used to “build up a picture of home addresses, travel routes, schools and workplaces”, which is certainly a danger seeing as a user’s location can be seen by people not on their ‘friends’ list.

The NSPCC has also spoken out, suggesting that Snapchat should have done more to inform parents when the update was released.

“We know tech companies are constantly developing their platforms and we’d encourage them to provide signposted information for parents and young people, so they know how to keep themselves safe,” said Rose Bray from the charity.

“Parents could be given a bit of warning, so they can look up the information before the new feature launches, and have a conversation with their child.”

Speaking to the BBC, Snapchat said “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”.

This is not the first time Snapchat has been involved – either directly or indirectly – in a privacy debate, as just this week a report revealed that NHS doctors are using the app to send pictures of patient scans to each other.

The issue in general is something of a hot topic at the moment. The issue primarily centres around the data being sent on encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp, with politicians coming down hard on technology companies for enabling terrorists to communicate in secret.

Obviously the issue isn’t black and white. Silicon’s very own Roland Moore-Colyer has suggested that data sharing is essential for the greater good, a view that many people will agree with.

The hard part in all this, especially related to Snap Maps, is determining just where the line should be drawn.

Quiz: Test your knowledge of privacy in tech!