Woman’s warning over Snapchat Snap Map feature after ‘terrifying’ encounter

Woman’s warning over Snapchat Snap Map feature after ‘terrifying’ encounter
  • PublishedSeptember 14, 2023

A popular feature on an app used by millions of Australians led to the ‘terrifying’ encounter.

West Australian woman is warning Snapchat users to double-check their location settings after a “terrifying” encounter with a man she hardly knew.

Gemma* wants others, especially parents of young children on the platform, to be aware of how much of their location detail is available after a man she spoke to once tracked her down using the Snap Map function.

Gemma met the man on a singles Facebook group on Monday and he suggested they add each other on Snapchat to continue talking.

However, she had a gut feeling something was not right when he offered to take her to the hospital to visit her mother the following morning.

“I said, ‘No, I’m not comfortable with that, I don’t know you. That would be stupid of me’,” she said.

Instead of accepting her answer, Gemma said the man tried to persuade her and sent her details such as his registration and driver’s licence to prove he was trustworthy.

“I thought it was really creepy. I said, ‘That’s a sweet offer, but I’m going to decline’ and I didn’t send him any more messages,” she said.

Gemma did not expect to hear from him again — until she received a notification on Tuesday morning that left chills down her spine.

“I got a message saying, ‘Why haven’t you got a driveway?’,” she said.

“I said, ‘Excuse me, I haven’t given you my address, how do you know where I live?’ Not even five minutes later, there’s a banging on my door.”

When Gemma opened the door, the man simply said: “It’s me”, and offered her an orchid he had bought.

“He kept saying, ‘I’m taking you to the hospital’,” she said.

In a desperate bid to get him to leave, Gemma lied that her sister was picking her up.

The 47-year-old said the ordeal triggered her fight or flight mode, having previously kicked out an abusive partner.

“All I could do was get him away from my front door,” she said.

“Luckily, I had already grabbed my handbag to go to the hospital to see my mum, so I pushed him so he couldn’t come into my house and locked the door.

“It was terrifying.”

‘People are unaware’

It was only after the man left that Gemma realised he had tracked her down using Snapchat.

The platform’s Snap Map feature shows a map of nearby friends and their latest location according to their smartphone’s GPS sensor.

It allows users to track other people’s location in real time, as well as view public photos and videos from a major event or busy location on the map.

While the feature was designed to help see what friends were up to, its has sparked concerns over its potential to be abused since its 2017 release.

Gemma said she had heard from several other women who had similar experiences.

“I had no idea it was so detailed, you can see someone’s location right down to their house on the street,” she said.

“So many people are unaware … I don’t want this to happen to another person.”

Snapchatters can choose whether they want their location visible to all of their friends, a select group or no one in Ghost mode and can change their settings at any time.

Ghost mode, where you can see your friend’s locations but no one can see yours, is the default setting on the app and users must opt-in to share their location with friends.

A Snap spokesperson recommended users regularly check their privacy settings on the app.

“Using Snapchat to harass someone is strictly against our rules,” they told 7NEWS.com.au.

“Location sharing on Snap Map is set to ‘off’ by default and in order to actively choose to share your location with friends, two people need to mutually accept the friendship first.

“There is no way for people you’re not friends with to see your location.”


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