MSP Gil Paterson is warning parents and schools of the privacy concerns of an image and video sharing social media app Snapchat.
Users can hone in on areas of a map and view hotspots for people posting pictures and videos on their Our Story feature.
Traditionally, ‘friends’ or contacts of a said Snapchat user could see what was posted on the user’s Your Story, but a later feature Our Story was added as an option alongside it to tick off who to or where the post goes.
Originally, Our Story was not linked to a map, or Snapmap, but since earlier in 2017 the GPS map feature was rolled out.
Now anyone using the app can explore a map of the world and look at posts in areas displayed like heat signatures, relative to how much posting is going on with the Our Story feature.
It is possible to scroll over a school, for example, and check if any posts have been made to Snapchat and view them. It is also possible to search for a location and be drawn to that part of the map to potentially look at snaps.
Snapmap also comes with a feature — one users are asked to activate when they open the map — whereby friends can view on the same map where other users are, location is updated in real-time.
Police have encouraged youngsters to use ‘ghost mode’ which hides them from the map because it is very often young people collate vast ‘friends’ lists with scores of contacts they are not trusted friends with.
Scottish Government minister Kevin Stewart has been in touch with Snapchat to raise these concerns and has started a petition to ask the UK Government to look into the matter, as communications is reserved to Westminster.
Mr Paterson said: “The Snapchat map feature allows anyone using the app to tap on the location of a school and see what users have been posting on the Our Story feature.
“It is possible to look around Clydebank and see where posts to Our Story have been made and throughout our research there have been concentrations of posts coming from secondary schools.
“It is often the case that Snapchat users will share images and videos directly with friends, on the Your Story and Our Story feature all at once to maximise exposure.
“However, young people can be naive to the consequences of publicly sharing what they are doing, where they are doing it and when they are doing it.
“School officials, teachers and parents should be aware of this because it adds a new element of invasion of privacy into the pupils’ lives.
“The feature is unlikely to be removed by Snapchat as the app is attempting to become a truly global and open social media platform – making awareness very important.
“Ultimately, parents are responsible for what their children are doing online and I would highly advise they become aware of Snapchat and the newer risks it poses.”