'Dangerous' Snapchat feature left Aussie woman 'fearing for her life'

·News Reporter
·4-min read

A 23-year old woman was left "fearing for her life" after a man she was seeing allegedly tracked her location and unexpectedly appeared at her friend's house where she was staying at the time.

The man, who she recently called it off with, was able to find her exact whereabouts using Snapchat, she claims, which includes a comprehensive tracking feature.

The young woman's mum, both of whom chose to remain anonymous, told Yahoo News Australia that her daughter was "so frightened" after the incident and she no longer has her phone's locations services turned on.

"She called me at midnight hysterical telling me that the guy had been messaging her in Snapchat and told her he was out the front of the house she was at," the Melbourne mum said.

"He stalked her to that exact address [using the app]. She wasn't aware that any apps allowed this."

The woman was allegedly following and tracked using Snapchat's location feature which allows people to find users' exact location. Source Facebook/Getty
The woman was allegedly following and tracked using Snapchat's location feature which allows people to find users' exact location. Source Facebook/Getty

While Snapchat has allowed users to share their general location with friends since 2017 using the Snap Map, which points to a general area, a new feature added in the Feburary 2022 update has made it more precise.

It now enables users to share their location, in real time, down to the exact street name and number, and a 'meet up' option provides users with the quickest route to get there.

Privacy and safety concerns over new feature: 'Completely irresponsible'

According to Snapchat, the concept was designed to keep users safe, CNN Business reported, but for some, the feature is concerning.

Screenshots of the feature were recently shared on Facebook by a user who was seemingly unaware of the app's ability to track and locate users.

"Warning, Snapchat update now allows you to click on the person to show their location, right down to the street address. It also goes one step further. Click the drive icon which will open google maps and it gives you their precise address. Even the house number," the post read.

The post garnered thousands of comments from concerned parents, friends and users of the app, many admitting it was scary for kids and people who weren't aware.

The new update is more precise about where users are and even has directions indicating the quickest route. Source: Facebook/Snapchat
The new update is more precise about where users are and even has directions indicating the quickest route. Source: Facebook/Snapchat

"The feature we don’t need. This is so dangerous and completely irresponsible of Snapchat to rollout a feature like this," one said. "Especially if it’s automatically opted in."

"Extremely dangerous for those in or escaping domestic violence. Please always check your settings," another warned.

"This is such a bad update. I cant believe they’re allowed to do that," a third wrote, thankful for the warning.

Some saw the benefits the app had to offer, with one saying: "It's a great way to see where your kids are."

The 23-year-old Melbourne woman has now turned off her location services, an option many said was possible through the app, you just need to know where to look.

'Understand the capabilities of technology,' expert warns

Ryan Shelley, social media expert and director of digital marketing agency, pepperit, told Yahoo News Australia that Snapchat’s ghost mode hides your location, and you can change this within the app.

"Additionally, in iOS settings, a user can configure if Snapchat can access location data: always; while using the app; or never," he said.

Mr Shelley explained that Snapchat, like most apps, is customisable based on what you want to share and with who.

"In Snapchat’s case, a user is given the option to share their location with all friends; all friends except specific people; or only specific friends," he said.

Snapchat on phone
Snapchat’s ghost mode hides your location, and you can change this within the app. Source: Getty

The Melbourne woman's predicament is a "reminder for all users, and their guardians, to understand the capabilities of the technology that’s being used," Mr Shelley said.

"Even apps you don’t use could be collecting and sharing data so it’s good practice to review the apps on your device and uninstall the ones you no longer use."

For the apps you do use, review the settings and decide on how much information you want to share, and when you want to share it.

"For complete privacy, don’t use a mobile phone and stay off the Internet."

Three weeks on from her ordeal, the young woman has blocked the man who allegedly followed her, and everyone associated with him, her mum told Yahoo News Australia.

"I'm still on edge a little as he knows where we live and hubby and I are at work everyday leaving our girl at home alone," she said, adding they've increased security at their house.

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