Privacy and safety concerns arise over new social media app features

NOW: Privacy and safety concerns arise over new social media app features


The whole world, and everyone in it, all visible to anyone with a phone and some social media apps. 

Last week, ABC57 News reported about a Snapchat update that allowed all of your friends to pinpoint your exact location. 

ABC57 News found out more about this troubling trend, and how much sharing is too much sharing. 

"It's where you can see all of your friends on Snapchat and where they are located," explains 16-year-old Mahala Koschnitzki, describing the app's new features. 

It allows instant connectivity with a simple touch to "accept" on your phone.  

The new feature allows your location to be viewed by your list of friends, based on when you last logged into the app. 

Some teens enjoy the added social experience. 

Others, like Koschnitzki, are rightly concerned.

"I don't like people knowing where I am," she says. "Some people might have other intentions. They might want to like hurt you or something."

It's a growing trend on social media: including different ways to connect based on nearby locations. 

A trend that Mitch Kajzer, the Director of the St. Joseph County Cyber Crimes Unit, is keeping a close eye on.

"If someone is sharing their location and you have it enabled on your phone, they can see your location and you can see their location," he explains. "It's eerily accurate as to how precise it is."

Dangers of this, he says, can include stalking-type of offenses. 

But Snapchat isn't the main culprit. It's not even the first app to include a location feature. 

Missed Connections is a setting on the dating app that finds people who you've crossed paths with: showing you a potential partner based on where you go. 

"These are people on that you have no relationship with at all. It just matches with those near you, so there is no relationship at all with them," says Kajzer. 

So why do people agree to the terms of sharing their geo-location data when they know, people who they don't know, can find them?

"We're all closet voyeurs. We want to know where everyone is at and what everyone is doing," explains Kajzer. "That's why social media has exploded."

Curiosity is now putting people in potential danger, especially for teens who use social media as a lifeline. 

It's a risk that both Kajzer and Koschnitzki say, just isn't worth it.

"They need to know that they're really just taking a risk if they have it on, because they don't know what's going to happen," adds Koschnitzki.

"They don't think about the possible dangers or consequences of something like this," says Kajzer. "They look at this as another way to connect with their friends."

He adds it's important to turn off the location sharing services and monitor app settings to ensure families and teens stay safe online. 

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