However, when I read about the privacy hoopla over Snap Map, Snapchat’s latest location based mapping feature, I’m left scratching my head.
In the beginning, Snapchat’s lack of privacy concerns could be inferred from its lackadaisical product decisions to its public company statements. This is a company subject to a 20 year independent privacy monitoring rule by the FTC after-all. Read the details here: 5 Ways Snapchat Violated Your Privacy
Snap Map – The New Snapchat
I actually applaud though the new Snapchat culture responsible for rolling out this geo-location mapping feature in a way that deserves to be a case study for most of today’s tech companies.
My Experience With Snap Map
I could have ignored Snap Map completely if I didn’t want to use it because Snapchat designed it as an opt-in feature. I was not forced into using it and Snapchat was not automatically sticking my Bitmoji (or Actionmoji) on a map without my knowledge.
When I did open the Snap Map feature for the first time, I was greeted with location options which allowed me to share my location with all of my friends, select friends, or just me (Ghost Mode). My location was not going out to the world.
Location is not updated when the app is in the background—it must be open. So if my Bitmoji appears at a location because I opened Snapchat, it’s location may be quickly outdated if I close the app and move on. In fact, after several hours of not using the app, my Bitmoji will disappear from the Snap Map completely.
Not bad, Snapchat.
A cool feature of Snap Map is the ability to see a heat map that glows with increasing intensity based on the quantity of snaps that were posted to the Our Story feature. Our Story is a way to publicly share a snap to the world for 24 hours or even longer if it is approved by Snapchat.
The Our Story snaps are accessible from within Snap Map by tapping on the heat map or a circle of an area/event of interest. Here Snapchat gets it right again. It doesn’t display the username of the snap originator—just the location.
For me, Snap Map encourages more chatting, especially when I see a friend at an interesting location.
Also, if I come across something that is happening now from Twitter, it is really cool to be able to open up Snap Map and see relatively live snaps of that same event using the heat map.
I felt comfortable using Snap Map because Snapchat made it opt-in and got the privacy settings right. In fact, this made me want to support that carefully thought out feature.
I know that there is still the ad tech side of the coin, but for now, I’m rewarding Snapchat for handling the Snap Map rollout so well.
Don’t forget, you are sharing your location with Snapchat servers even in Ghost Mode though. However, if you had location enabled, that was already happening.
More companies need to use opt-in as the default way to co-opt users into a new feature. Too many do just the opposite though by forcing users to opt-out of a feature.
I’m going to leave my pitchfork in the shed for now. There are worse shenanigans in the tech world to use it against.
To the best of my knowledge, Snapchat has addressed those previous FTC concerns too and the new Snapchat culture has come a long way. It’s a pretty cool place to share the in-the-moment and often goofy photos that won’t appear on other social media platforms. In fact, it is so good that Instagram is now labeled a copycat for the way it seems to CTL-C CTL-V every new Snapchat feature. Where Instagram copies, Snapchat is innovating.