Suffolk police warn of dangers of child grooming and stalking on new Snap Map app tool

Concerns have been raised over Snapchat's new Snap Map feature. Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

Concerns have been raised over Snapchat's new Snap Map feature. Picture: ADAM HOWLETT - Credit: Archant

The head of Suffolk police’s cyber crime team has warned of the potential dangers of stalking and child grooming on Snapchat’s new feature - Snap Map.

Charlotte Driver, Suffolk police's Cyber Crime Supervisor. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE

Charlotte Driver, Suffolk police's Cyber Crime Supervisor. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE - Credit: Archant

The phone app’s new tool, which came out late last month, allows your online friends, and their friends, to see your location on a real-time map whenever you log on.

Charlotte Driver, supervisor for Suffolk’s cyber crime team, said the app had the potential to allow paedophiles and stalkers to know where their potential victims live.

“Social media is a predators’ playground,” she said.

“The reality is you don’t know the people on there but with this Snap Map they can know where you are.

Snap Map allows you to hceck the location of your friends although some say it could leave children

Snap Map allows you to hceck the location of your friends although some say it could leave children at risk. Picture: ADAM HOWLETT - Credit: Archant


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“There is nowhere to hide. You could use it to follow people, to stalk people, to know when they are at home.

“The worry is that mutual friends can also see you on the map.

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“Most children who are on social media have hundreds of friends. We had a presentation with a year 7 group the other day and asked one boy how many Snapchat friends he had. He said he had 490 and he was only 11.

“Snap Map is very accurate too.

Suffolk police's cyber crime team: l-r PSI Russ Yates, PSI Gemma Theobald, PSI Michelle Abbott, PSI

Suffolk police's cyber crime team: l-r PSI Russ Yates, PSI Gemma Theobald, PSI Michelle Abbott, PSI James Friend, Cyber Crime Supervisor Charlotte Driver, PSI Hayley Batterham, PSI Liam Gilks, PSI Michelle Parker-Ridge, PSI Simon Whitfield, PSI Emily Ackers. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE - Credit: Archant

“We did it with one of my officers and it showed the exact detached house she lived in.

“The reality is you will get a lot of predators on there saying they are an age they are not.

“It is really scary.

“It is so easy to track someone and abuse that system.”

Mrs Driver, who leads nine cyber crime officers on Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft, said the new technology could potentially be used for coercive control, harassment, cyber stalking and child grooming.

“If people are fixated on somebody they can literally track them,” she said.

“That is the problem we are going to have.”

The cyber team are planning to visit schools across the county to let youngsters know the dangers of the new feature and to make sure they are doing everything they can to stay safe.

Officers say parents should make sure their children have the correct privacy settings set up so strangers cannot see them and to make sure all their online passwords are secure.

The NSPCC has also voiced its concern for the new Snap Map tool warning children not to broadcast their location to potential predators.

The charity is urging youngsters to set their profile to the ‘Ghost mode’ setting, which helps hide where they are, and has issued online safety advice to parents.

It is also calling on the Government to force social networks to offer safe accounts to under 18s - which would have location settings switched off as default.

The charity said Snap Maps could leave children vulnerable to grooming, stalking, bullying and controlling behaviours.

Rose Bray, NSPCC’s child safety online expert, said: “Even limiting Snap Maps to the ‘friends only’ setting is risky if those contacts include people you don’t know.

“It’s important parents have regular conversations with young people about staying safe online, and making sure that they know how to protect their privacy.”

For more information on online safety see here.

You can also follow Suffolk police’s cyber crime team @NSTcyber on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

Snapchat were unavailable for comment.

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