Police warn of Snapchat safety concerns

New feature 'Snap Map' pinpoints users' locations

Police Warn of Snapchat Safety Concerns

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A new feature on a popular cell phone app is raising safety concerns, and area police want parents to know how to keep their kids safe.

Snapchat recently released Snap Map, which depending on the preferences you choose, allows users to see almost exactly where friends are on a map.

The La Crosse Police Department said while the app can be fun, there are ways to use it while keeping safety in mind.

"It made me really nervous,” Onalaska resident Paige Lofald said.

When Paige Lofald heard about Snapchat's newest feature, she wasn't a fan.

"I just don't want people to be like, 'I know exactly where Pagie is, I can go find her,’” she said. “That's just weird."

"We were actually talking about this a few days ago,” West Salem resident Mary Mckee said.

Mckee doesn’t use Snapchat, but her daughter does, and they both have worries as well.

"Both of us were discussing that it's pretty concerning overall that anyone can know where you are at any point, and as parent that made me very uncomfortable,” she said.

The location is specific, and updates every time a user opens the map.

"The map is very visual and can go down to exact building that that child or person may be at,” said Brooke Pataska, community policing officer with the La Crosse Police Department.  “It is very accurate.”

That's why Pataska wants parents to be aware.

"It can be used incorrectly in the wrong hands,” she said.

Pataska said users can go into preferences in the app and make it so only friends they trust can view their location.

She also said Snapchatters can go into “ghost mode” so no one can see where they are, which is helpful, “"especially if you're letting (Snapchat) be open to anyone or if random people are perhaps trying to add your child or anyone.”

"I had no idea about the ghost mode,” Lofald said. “I like to think I'm fairly up to date with things, so that's something people should be notified of."

"It can be very harmless, it can be fun for people, just remember to be broad I guess about your thoughts on it just to make sure you're using it correctly,” Pataska said.

Users can't be seen on the map feature until they open it for the first time (by pinching the screen), and then they can specifically choose their preferences. Snapchatters can decide to have all their friends see their location, just certain friends, or no one at all.

Pataska said the La Crosse Police Department has not received any calls about the new feature.

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