Snapchat invades privacy in new location feature

July 07, 2017
Layan Damanhouri

JEDDAH – Discovering Snapchat’s new location feature is addicting to some and alarming to others.

“I can’t stop checking my phone to see who’s nearby”, tweeted one Saudi national once the feature was launched. Others agree it's exciting to explore strangers' stories.

The social app, considered to be Saudis’ favorite social app used on a daily basis, recently introduced the Snap Map, a feature where mutual friends can locate each other on a map. But it also decided to open up a bit, revealing strangers’ stories outside users’ friends lists with their location on the map, something many view as dangerous.

The Communication and Information Technology Commission released an awareness campaign to protect one’s privacy on Snap and instructing how to use it carefully.

The way to turn off one’s visibility is to turn on the “Ghost Mode” in the settings.

“Not everyone is aware and is tech-savvy to be able to quickly check their privacy once a new feature is introduced in an app,” says Sager Khaled, social media specialist. “The Map feature is Snapchat’s way to make the world more connected. However, users don’t want their privacy to be invaded. Not everyone knew about the Ghost Mode option.”

Over 7 million daily active users are from Saudi Arabia and follow Snapchat for news, entertainment, social interaction and marketing. Large media networks have been using Snapchat in their news coverage.

“The way to maintain this heavy traffic is to come up with updates and new features. However, the Snap Map is dangerous and can create problems with conservative societies like those in the Arab World, he added. “If people are not satisfied, it can weaken the popularity of the app.”

Others see the app as bringing people closer and making life easier.

Yara Hatem, a regular user of Snapchat in Egypt, says, “There’s potential to the app where people can discover new places and connect with people in the area. For me, it will be interesting to see how users work with it.”

The app also attracted commercial enterprises to market themselves publicly, such as entertainment events during the Eid holidays.

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