Snapchat’s new map feature which shows exactly where users are has sparked a privacy row and fears it could put children at risk.
Schools have warned of “serious safeguarding” issues and said children could be tracked using the new map feature, which is being rolled out to users across the UK.
A Snapchat spokesman told the Standard that the safety of the community was “very important” to them and they want to make sure all Snapchatters, parents and educators “have accurate information about how the Snap Map works”.
He added that the location feature “had to be accurate” so that friends could use it to find one another and claimed it was not possible to share your location with someone who wasn’t a friend on Snapchat.
He also stressed that location-sharing was off by default and could be turned off at any time.
However some users have complained at having to manually select ‘ghost-mode’ to opt-out.
Snapchat launched the Snap Map feature in June which shows publicly posted images on a searchable map that are plotted onto a worldwide map in real time.
It promoted the update as a “new way to explore the world”.
Users can zoom in to see the exact location revealing the street they are on and even houses or businesses where their friends are unless they use the ghost mode which means you are the only person who can see your location on the map.
A spokesman for the NSPCC said: “It’s worrying that Snapchat is encouraging under 18s to broadcast their location on the app where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contacts list.
“With public accounts, this will include those who are not known to the user.
“This highlights why it’s vital children are automatically offered safer accounts on social media to ensure they are protected from unnecessary risks.”
The feature has also caused concern for parents who believe the tech giant is leaving their children open to vulnerable situations.
The National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (Ceop) has published a guidance for parents who want to know more about Snapchat and Snap Map and urges them to encourage their children be careful whilst socialising online.
It advised parents to encourage their children not to share their location publicly, but in private messaging apps with people they know.
A spokesman said: “Online technology is central to much of modern life, and the internet brings substantial benefits to people of all ages.
“However, we are alive to the threat of those with a sexual interest in children seeking to exploit various tools for their own ends.
“These people do attempt to make contact with children over the internet, through social networks, chatrooms and games.
“Information and guidance for children and young people from 5 to 18 on staying safe online and in the physical world, as well as information for parents and teachers, is available on our dedicated website, http://www.ThinkuKnow.co.uk.
“Anyone who is concerned that someone is in immediate danger should call 999. Online grooming can be reported via the Click CEOP button, available via our website.”