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Is Snapchat Really as Private as You Think it is?

@jennaday
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Since September 2011, Snapchat has been changing not only the way people communicate, but also how they choose to share their information and how much of it they are comfortable sharing. Beginning as a simple photo app allowing users to send photos with text to friends, Snapchat has since evolved to become one of the most popular apps with countless new features including Snap Text, Snap Map, and Discover.

However, with the addition of new features, Snapchat has also introduced new privacy concerns for it’s users, as well as inadvertently created mass discussion around how privacy concerns have changed throughout the years, and how the interpretation of what privacy is has changed.

In the past, the common perception surrounding privacy was that any information about a person – including their name – is private, and therefore hard to access. In stark contrast, the current generation will share their name, what school they go to, who their friends are, what city they live in, their current location and much more with anyone who cares to know.

This softening of privacy concerns is evident in the growing popularity of Snapchat, despite the misconceptions surrounding the app, and in particular, features like Snap Map. Snapchat’s privacy policy acknowledges that they collect three categories of information from their users: information users choose to give Snapchat, information Snapchat receives when users utilize their services, and information Snapchat receives from third parties. Despite the policy explicitly stating that they have access to whatever content is sent on their app, the common belief is that whatever is sent on Snapchat disappears entirely after it has been viewed by the recipient. This belief often leads to the sending of private personal information or perhaps, promiscuous content that the sender would not want to be seen by anyone other than the intended recipient. The fact that this commonly held belief is entirely untrue opens the door to a slew of privacy concerns for users depending on the nature of the content being sent.

One of the most notable privacy issues with Snapchat is their Snap Map feature, introduced in June 2017. Snap Map allows users to see where their friends are if they have the Snap Map feature turned on. The recent addition to the app is in fact very precise, showing the exact house, building, or street a person is currently located on. Although this feature does need to be turned on by the user, much of the demographic that uses Snapchat might be considered quite naïve and may not understand the consequences of allowing others to see their precise location.

Although it is clear that Snapchat is perhaps not your best option when it comes to matters of privacy, it is bewildering that Snapchat has maintained status as one of the most popular apps among teens and young adults since 2012. This phenomenon indicates that the current generation is much less concerned about their privacy than they should be, and even less so than the previous generation.

In order to stay safe on Snapchat, it is best to follow one of their own guidelines included in the privacy policy: “Don’t send messages or share content that you wouldn’t want someone to save or share.”

unsplash-logoJenna Day

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