What Surprised Me – Some Context Behind Some Key Features
Given my time in online safety and working across industry, I’d heard some concerns about Snapchat. Below are a handful of examples and what I’ve learned over the past few months.
Content that Deletes by Default
Snapchat is probably most known for one of its earliest innovations: content that deletes by default. Like others, I made my own assumptions about this feature and, as it turns out, it’s something other than I’d first presumed. Moreover, it reflects the real-life-friends dynamic.
Snapchat’s approach is rooted in human-centered design. In real life, conversations between and among friends aren’t saved, transcribed or recorded in perpetuity. Most of us are more at ease and can be our most authentic selves when we know we won’t be judged for every word we say or every piece of content we create.
One misperception I’ve heard is that Snapchat’s delete-by-default approach makes it impossible to access evidence of illegal behavior for criminal investigations. This is incorrect. Snap has the ability to, and does, preserve content existing in an account when law enforcement sends us a lawful preservation request. For more information about how Snaps and Chats are deleted, see this article
Strangers Finding Teens
A natural concern for any parent when it comes to online interactions is how strangers might find their teens. Again, Snapchat is designed for communications between and among real friends; it doesn’t facilitate connections with unfamiliar people like some social media platforms. Because the app was built for communicating with people we already know, by design, it’s difficult for strangers to find and contact specific individuals. Generally, people who are communicating on Snapchat have already accepted each other as friends. In addition, Snap has added protections to make it even more difficult for strangers to find minors, like banning public profiles for those under 18. Snapchat only allows minors to surface in friend-suggestion lists (Quick Add) or Search results if they have friends in common.
A newer tool we want parents and caregivers to be aware of is Friend Check-Up, which prompts Snapchatters to review their friend lists to confirm those included are still people they want to be in contact with. Those you no longer want to communicate with can easily be removed.
Snap Map and Location-Sharing
Along those same lines, I’ve heard concerns about the Snap Map – a personalized map that allows Snapchatters to share their location with friends, and to find locally relevant places and events, like restaurants and shows. By default, location-settings on Snap Map are set to private (Ghost Mode) for all Snapchatters. Snapchatters have the option of sharing their location, but they can do so only with others whom they’ve already accepted as friends – and they can make location-sharing decisions specific to each friend. It’s not an “all-or-nothing” approach to sharing one’s location with friends. Another Snap Map plus for safety and privacy: If people haven’t used Snapchat for several hours, they’re no longer visible to their friends on the map.
Most importantly from a safety perspective, there’s no ability for a Snapchatter to share their location on the Map with someone they’re not friends with, and Snapchatters have full control over the friends they choose to share their location with or if they want to share their location at all.