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Snapchat and Other Social Media Tracking Children

Snapchat and Other Social Media Tracking Children

Stalking might seem a harsh way to put it, but it describes what is currently going on with many social media sites. Privacy advocates have been warning people for quite some time about the dangers of giving social networks all types of permissions, from your phone’s camera to using your GPS location.   The more you share, and the more apps you install, the more at risk you are.

Snapchat has recently been criticized over a new feature that allows geo-location. The truth is that almost any app you install on your smartphone will request permission to access your GPS data, even if the application functions have nothing to do with location. The owners of the app use the information retrieved to provide a more detailed insight of their users to advertisers, who will benefit of knowing the places you commonly visit, or if you are near a store.   All the information stored can also be used by third parties. Private investigators in the Philippines have seen how online criminals based in Manila and Cebu use this data to get to know their victims better when planning a crime.

Snapchat’s new feature, called Snap Maps, allows its users to share their location and to track each other’s movements in real time, with friends and other users able to see where they are and what they are doing. Snapchat made this change automatically and many people didn’t even notice.

Of course, there is a privacy setting to opt out of Snap Map, but the great concern is that most users are not even aware that this exists. As with most of these invasive features, sharing is the default. Users have to learn how to turn off the sharing mode, find how and where to do it, and do it. But a great part of the users of Snapchat are in fact children!  And now, they’re being tracked.

Parents download the app for their children to have fun with the photos. However, minors are not aware of the dangers and parents are not well educated about the risks. They have no idea somebody else could be tracking them. Parents most of the times are not even familiar with the apps their kids use. Child safety experts fear that highlighting kids’ locations could put them at risk.

Families are seeking better online protection for children while social network executives are more concerned about making money at the expense of their users’ safety. Children in the Philippines already face serious threats like being victim to cybersex trade rings. Disrespectful decisions like the one Snapchat took when including automatically Snap Map just makes concerns worse.

Parents should be more involved in their kids’ digital life and follow security measures that can protect their privacy as well their beloved’s.  Protect your privacy, fight back!

C. Wright
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