Snapchat Updates – Snap Maps: GPS Sharing or Ghost Mode?

Published on July 17, 2017 by in Blog, Newsletter

Snapchat Updates – Snap Maps: GPS Sharing or Ghost Mode?

In the past few years, Snapchat has become one of the most commonly used phone applications in the U.S. and around the world. There are one hundred million daily active Snapchat users, whether they’re posting pictures of food on their stories, sending selfies to their friends, or keeping streaks and raising their Snapchat scores (Omnicore, 2017). Millions of users feel safe and comfortable on this popular app–especially teens: research shows that 75% of American teenagers use Snapchat (NORC at the University of Chicago, 2017). The unique appeal of Snapchat is that pictures that are sent to friends within the app will self-destruct after a few seconds of viewing them. It is not surprising that teens love this feature! It proves for an entertaining and worry-free way of talking to friends, as there is little chance a full conversation could be saved or shown to other people. Plus, users are notified if their snaps are screen-shotted. The app now has features like sharing Snapchat “stories,” reading fun daily “magazines” from sites like Buzzfeed, Mashable, and Cosmopolitan, a variety of creative filters which change every day, as well as the satisfaction of keeping a hundred day streak.

It’s easy to see that Snapchat has successfully created a huge network of faithful users who engage in the app daily and use it as a primary method of communication. Some even choose Snapchat over texting. Not only are users entertained and fulfilled, they also feel comfortable and safe when using the app. However, the recent Snapchat update raises some safety concerns that may cause some to reconsider their privacy when using the app.

This summer, Snapchat launched its new Snap Maps; a feature where users can see a map where everyone’s Bitmojis show up at their exact physical location. A Bitmojis is, as advertised by the online service, “your own personal emoji,” that you can dress up and customize however you like. When several Snapchat users are hanging out together, the map shows their Bitmojis together in a circle. The map also shows cartoons that resemble other real-world activities: Bitmoji characters wear headphones when a Snapchat user is listening to music and shows the Bitmoji in a small yellow car if a Snapchat user is in a moving vehicle. The map also highlights “hotspot” areas. Scroll around the world to peruse Snapchat stories that offer a quick peek into global and local events like fairs, concerts, and other gatherings.

Do Snap Chatters Have Control over Snap Map Settings?

The answer is yes: Snapchat settings allow you to adjust who can see your Bitmoji location on the Snap Map. Click “My Friends” to enable all the people you have on your Snapchat friends list to see your location. Click “Select Friends” to choose which people with which to reveal your location, or go into Ghost Mode so that no one can see your location on the Snap Map.

The Snap Maps update amplifies matters of personal safety. Even if you only let your Snapchat friends see you on the map, the possibility exists that someone that you befriended–either in person or online–might use social media in a way that creates trouble for you or puts you in harm’s way. Consider Roni’s story.

Roni’s Story

Think About It

How might you adjust your settings to prevent someone like Danny from knowing your location?

Safety Tip

Take screenshots of your stalker’s Snaps as evidence to show law enforcement if you need to file a police report.

Cyberstalking has been a concern long before the Snap Maps feature, or even Snapchat, existed. In her article for, Roni Jacobson, a freelance journalist, writes about her 15-year experience with a stalker that she calls “Danny” (2016). Danny cyber stalked Roni since she was the mere age of twelve. Roni recounts how the relationship begins: frequent Facebook messages escalate into obsessive harassments that include threats to herself and her friends. As Roni attempts to block the stalker on Facebook, “Danny” creates new usernames and continues to intimidate and degrade her. Danny sends complaints about Roni the FTC and FCC, threatening her career as a journalist, and he sends vile messages to her friends pretending to be her. Read more about Roni’s experience here.

Consider the unique features of Snapchat in a situation like Roni’s: a stalker could send disappearing photos and videos. Moreover, if a user allows everyone to view his or her location on Snap Maps, cyber stalkers, like Danny, would be able to gain access to their targets’ exact whereabouts, thus putting the victim’s safety in even more jeopardy.

Other Applications with Location Sharing

Location-sharing is not exclusive to Snapchat. Social media platforms that share GPS location could amplify risky situations such as cyber bullying, stalking and harassment, and lead to real-world harm.

Facebook has a location-sharing feature called “Nearby Friends.” “Nearby Friends,” when turned on, is a Facebook feature which constantly shares your location and notifies you if you are near a friend (who also has Nearby Friends turned on). This feature allows Facebook keep a record of your location history by tracking wherever you go (with your phone). You can turn off location sharing by opening the Facebook app and tapping “More,” “Nearby Friends,” the settings icon, and then “Location Settings.”

Google Maps also has a “share location” option. You can choose how long you’d like your exact location to be available to your friends.

Think About It

If the location-sharing feature was active on Roni’s Facebook account, Danny might have been able to track her down.

Why the Alarm Over Snap Maps?

The alarm that Snap Maps has generated is possibly due to the fact that millions of Snapchat users are teens who use social media with “real world” friends, form new friendships and even dating relationships through social media. According to Statista, 60% of Snapchat users are ages 13-24 (2017). Despite Snapchat’s age limitation, you probably know of some people under age 13 who use the app as well. Although location-sharing presents safety risks for teens and adults, this feature is more troubling if users are minors.

See i-SAFE’s Human Trafficking initiative to learn more about online relationships and the link to human trafficking:

Cyber-stalking is a problem that has troubled people since the widespread adoption of digital communications. (add space) This issue is not only a nuisance, it may be considered a crime. Stalking takes on many forms, and the definition of stalking differs in state laws. Some states count stalking as a crime as long as the victim experienced fear, while other states require that fear of death or bodily harm is involved.

Tips to Take Control

Whether you are using Snapchat, Facebook, Google, or any other application with a GPS feature, you have the option to manage who sees your location. It is up to you to safely decide if you want to share your GPS location with friends on social media, or whether you want to turn off location sharing completely. If you are considering turning on location sharing for the “Just Friends” option, make sure you consider how well you know each of the people on your friends’ list. Some people are only connected on Snapchat with their closest friends, while others accept acquaintances, internet friends, or anyone who goes to their school. Think safely and logically when making these choices, and make sure to help your younger siblings, and friends who may not know better, to make smart choices as well.

Are you unsure as to whether you are sharing your GPS location with the public?

Visit your Snapchat, Facebook, Google, or other social media accounts and check your GPS settings in order to make sure your that you aren’t sharing your location with the entire world. On a side note, you can also keep the app from tracking your every move by turning the location feature off when you are not searching for your friends. Consider only turning on location-sharing when absolutely necessary.

What can you do if someone is stalking you online?
  • Block and report the stalker to the online service.
  • Save screenshots of communications that you receive from the stalker (including messages, photos, and videos).
  • Keep a digital copy, if possible, of all communications so that law enforcement can identify the IP address (Internet location) of the cyber stalker.
  • Stalkers may try to hack your account, so change your passwords and remove personal details like GPS and contact information.
  • If you feel that you are in immediate danger, report to the police immediately.

Share your thoughts with us!

Do you use the GPS feature on Snapchat or other social media accounts?

Have you ever had a cyber stalker? What did you do?

Get into the conversation with iDrive on Instagram!


Aslam, Salman. “Snapchat by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts.” • Snapchat by the Numbers (2017): Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts. Omnicore, 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 10 July 2017. Retrieved from:

“Crime Type.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. BJS, n.d. Web. 11 July 2017.

Jacobson, Roni. “I’ve Had a Cyberstalker Since I Was 12.” Wired. Conde Nast, 19 June 2017. Web. 10 July 2017. Retrieved from:

“U.S. Snapchat Users Demographics 2016.” Statista. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 July 2017.

Young, Eric, comp. “AP-NORC Teens and Social Media Apps Press Release.” (n.d.): n. pag. AP-Norc. Associated Press- NORC at the University of Chicago, 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 5 July 2017. Retrieved from:

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Super Bowl 51 and Human Trafficking

Published on February 1, 2017 by in Blog, Newsletter

Super Bowl 51 and Human Trafficking

Although January and Human Trafficking Awareness Month is coming to a close, the efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking continues. In February, the nation embarks on one of the largest sporting events in the United States: the Super Bowl.

This year, Super Bowl LI will be held at NRG Stadium in Houston Texas. Officials in Houston plan to use the NFL championship game to draw attention to this serious problem—particularly when minors are involved in commercial adult acts. Last year, the FBI launched a series of sting operations during Super Bowl 50 to crack down on human trafficking in the local region of the Levi Stadium in Northern California. Across all sting operations, over 500 attempted buyers were arrested, and 10 teens were rescued. A dozen traffickers were arrested in the Bay Area.

Is the Big Game the Only Big Day for Human Trafficking?

The debate over the link between the Super Bowl and Human Trafficking largely stems from a statement made in 2011 by the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot. Abbot told USA Today that “The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly. It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
But not everyone is in agreement with drawing attention to the Super Bowl as a high time for human trafficking. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women reported that “There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking [for commercial acts],” arguing that law enforcement is using the Big Game to create hype around the problem of human trafficking.

Critics say that this hype stems from efforts to raise funds and to do something quick and easy, but that once the hype is gone, the efforts wane. Others critics have deemed the link between the Super Bowl and human trafficking as a myth citing a lack of data-driven evidence. The GAATW also asserts that linking sporting events with trafficking are a distraction from year-round efforts. “This myth trivializes trafficking … and wastes needed resources that could be used to actually address trafficking” (2011).

Correlating Evidence between Sporting Events and Online Ads

A study by Carnegie Mellon University investigates the statement that the Super Bowl is the biggest day for Human trafficking in the United States. Researchers aimed to arrive at the data-driven evidence. The report examines 33 public events that compare with the Super Bowl in terms of attendance and duration of time—events that last a few days. Some of the public events included in the study correlated with an increase in online advertising for adult acts in the local region while others events did not show an uptick in ads for adult acts. The report showed an increase in online ads for adult acts during the Super Bowl. While this trend may link to human trafficking, the data is not specific enough just yet. However, the findings suggest that the Big Game is not necessarily the biggest day, nor the only event that correlates with an increase online ads for commercial acts, and more research needs to be done to find the link to human trafficking.

Houston leaders say that circumstantial evidence shows that human trafficking increases during events, and they intend to use the Super Bowl to draw attention to the issue. Sting operations will take place in the local area of NRG Stadium in an effort to prosecute criminals and rescue trafficking victims.

One key takeaway is that human trafficking is not just a Houston problem, nor is it a problem that decreases after the Super Bowl ends. It’s a problem in communities all across the United States all year long.

Do you think that human trafficking happens during sporting events? Yes or No?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @idrive_live

Related Articles:
Laurie Johnson. “Houston Develops Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking During Super Bowl.” Houston Public Media. 12 January 2017. Web. Retrieved from:

Associated Press. “Study: Texas Has About 313K Human Trafficking Victims.” ABC News. 25 January 2017. Web. Retrieved from:

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Senate Investigates Online Classified Ads for Trafficked Minors

Published on February 1, 2017 by in Blog, Newsletter

Senate Investigates Online Classified Ads for Trafficked Minors

The U.S. economy operates on a system of supply and demand. Online classified websites allow people to buy and sell their goods and services to the general public and promote employment opportunities. These platforms allow the economy to thrive, yet without proper safeguards and a watchful eye, these sites may also aid in criminal enterprise. On January 5, the U.S. Senate released an investigative report, “’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Child Trafficking,” that asserts that has had a hand in facilitating the supply and demand for minors for commercial exploitation. Findings indicate that the online classified ad companies are one of the largest and most profitable online markets for this crime. has allegedly helped traffickers clean up their online posts in the Adult section in order to hide the evidence that the online ads market minors for adult services. Other online classified advertisement companies, such as Craigslist, have shut down the Adult section altogether. Since the 2009 shutdown of the Adult section on Craigslist, has grown into a $135 million business. Also, according to the report, in 2013, reportedly net more than 80% of all revenue from online advertising in the Adult section that links with commercial acts with minors. The report also cites that 73% of all child trafficking reports that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receives from the general public links back to However, denies responsibility for the content of its ads and rejects the claim that they are trying to hide criminality. Contrary to the information in the investigative report, the company claims that it screens posts for evidence of underage victims and alerts authorizes when evidence is found.

What do you think should be done about these Online Classified Ads?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @idrive_live

Related Articles:
Backpage Shuts Down Adult Ads in the U.S., Citing Government Pressure.” NPR. 10 January 2017. Retrieved from:

Cooke, Kristina, Dan Levine. “Child…Trafficking Victims Sue in Four States” Reuters. Web. 25 January 2017. Retrieved from:

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