Snapchat's new Snap Map feature raises privacy concerns

PHOTO: Snapchat is displayed on a smartphone in this June 17, 2016 file photo in Berlin.PlayBerlinThomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images
WATCH New 'Snap Maps' update in the Snapchat app raises privacy concerns

A new update to the popular social networking app Snapchat that allows certain users of the app to track down your exact location is raising privacy concerns for parents and child safety advocates.

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The new Snapchat feature, called "Snap Map," lets you decide whether or not to share your location with your friends in the app, or stay in "ghost mode," the app's default setting. If you decide to share your location, then an emoji representing you will appear to pinpoint your exact location on a map to your friends within the Snapchat app. The emoji marking where someone is on the map will "only update when you open Snapchat," the tech company explained in a blog post.

But experts are concerned.

"It is very easy to accidentally share everything that you've got with more people than you need too, and that's the scariest portion," cyber security expert Charles Tendell told ABC News of the Snapchat update.

A spokesperson for Snapchat told ABC News in a statement that 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."

"With Snap Map, location-sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional. Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time," the spokesperson said. "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."

Experts recommend that parents stay aware of updates to apps like Snapchat. They also suggest parents make sure they know who their kids' friends are on Snapchat and also talk to their children about who they add on Snapchat.

Childnet International, an children's internet safety advocacy group, released tips for how to safely use the Snap Map feature, which includes to only share your location with people you know in person, and never with strangers. In addition, the group advises to not add contacts to Snapchat if you don't already know them in person.

The organization also advises that you can switch off the location-sharing feature at any time, and to put careful consideration into when you choose to share your location.

"Think about where you’re sharing your location. Location services such as Snap Maps can lead people to your house," Childnet International said in a blog post. "Think about what times you’re on the app and whether these are locations you want to share-–if not, then turn this off within your settings."

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