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New Snapchat feature poses possible threat to student safety

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Snapchat, a popular social media app, has constantly provided updates to its large user base. However, the app’s new location feature, Snap Map, is raising safety concerns.

Paired with Bitmoji, an app for customizable personal emojis, the Snap Map feature connects to your GPS and automatically shares your exact location in real time to friends. The feature also publically shares stories depending on your privacy settings.

Mauricio Valdez, computer science senior, said he stopped using Snapchat due to privacy concerns and thinks students should be wary of possible danger due to the new feature.

“I think that it can pose a threat to students if they don’t take the adequate privacy precautions in the first place,” Valdez said. “Revealing the constant location of anyone is dangerous and invasive.”

After the update came out, law enforcement officials in college towns such as Tyler and the Dallas-Fort Worth area released statements of concern for the new feature.

Luis Barrientos, another Snapchat user and recently graduated microbiology major, said students aren’t in any more danger using Snap Map than they are using other location-sharing social media apps.

“Apps like Find My Friends and Instagram already give you the option to see where your friends are at any given moment,” Barrientos said. “Snap Map is just another fun way to do that and you always have the option to turn it off if you are worried for your safety.”

TIME magazine declared Snapchat the most downloaded free iPhone app of 2016. Snapchat’s famed photo filters and stories create a platform for users to share 1-10 seconds of content with their followers. Snapchat’s most recent feature Snap Map offers users the option to share their location with followers. Users can disable the feature by enabling “Ghost Mode.”

According to public data from the Texas State University Police Department, there has been a total of 12 reported stalking cases from the years 2013 to 2015, eight of which were reportedly on campus. While campus police have not expressed concern for student safety in relation to the Snapchat update, they warn about sharing personal locations.

The UPD recommends students download the Texas State safety app, Bobcat Guardian if they are interested in sharing their locations. It can be downloaded in the app store or on the Texas State Student Affairs page.

According to the UPD website, the Bobcat Guardian app increases user safety by creating a virtual safety network of friends and family.

Sergeant Rolando Belmares of UPD said he believes it is important students have the Bobcat Guardian app on their phones.

“Let’s say you studied at the library until two in the morning and it takes you 10 minutes to walk home. You set a timer and if in 11 minutes you don’t get home, the app automatically sends a message to your family, a friend or the police department, whoever you designated, with your GPS coordinates,” Belmares said.