An inquiry by AZCentral’s journalist, Chelsea Hoffman, brought me back to some of my hardcore research today. Chelsea and I discussed how SnapMap can be used with criminal intent. Among the most recent crimes committed with the aid of SnapMap have been homicides, physical violent attacks (e.g. stabbings), paedophilia, voyeurism, and stalking.
So what to do about location based social networking, and its role in society, and its use by minors?
We talked about:
suspects using SnapMap
risks involved with privacy and social media
ways users can stay safe with features.
My answers for how to keep safe are summarised as follows:
if you are a minor opt-out of SnapChat altogether
if you are a SnapChat user, DO NOT opt in to SnapMap
if you are a minor share your GPS coordinates with trusted family alone
if you are a minor share only a fuzzy match (e.g. to the closest suburb)
if you are a user of SnapMap use the ghost mode.
Increasingly, as consumers we are relying on technology in ways we have not in the past, and mainly for convenience, emerging wrongful uses of applications are surfacing. We cannot any longer blame simply the “consumer” for not self-regulating better. Minors, are not expected to know what kind of self-regulation they require as children. Service providers have a role to play in offering more robust technology services.
Sensors in cameras, in phones, in wearables, all use EXIF metadata to capture things like the image, location and sound, and time stamps etc. The EXIF, exchangeable image file format is metadata that if inspected can reveal a great deal about the image captured. When users have their GPS “location-enabled”, GPS coordinates pinpointing where the photo was taken appear in the EXIF. If the image(s) are uploaded on to a social media platform, then anyone with public access can download and inspect the properties of the photos, recreating daily chronicles. It is possible to remove the personal information from the files using the “Remove Properties and Personal Information” feature. This is easier to do on Android devices as opposed to IoS “after the fact’. But, it is also possible to set as a default in the settings of the Camera application, the location for the purposes of the EXIF is disabled and won’t be recorded.
When the geotagging feature became available on 21 June 2017, law enforcement, privacy groups, and parents associations demanded an answer from SnapChat why no warning was given to the launch of SnapMap.
What ensued was a typical conversation between an ICT service provider and the process of upgrades:
(1) SnapChat introduced a new feature, it has nothing to do with how humans use that feature
(2) buyer beware, it is not our problem if minors are sharing their real time location
(3) media literacy is the job of the community, school education systems, parents and friends etc.
For my interview I relied on a recent case based out of Arizona. A man in his 30s masqueraded as a young teen under the SnapChat identity ashley.cheer6.
"And one girl in the friend group accepted it," one of the moms explained. "Everyone else said, 'Hey she’s a friend of my friend,' so I’ll accept it.”
The investigation into Spoon began in 2018, according to court documents, when Scottsdale Police started receiving calls about a man looking through windows.
Thanks to a tip, police were able to get a license plate number, and started monitoring Spoon's movements through his phone's GPS.
On Wednesday, they tracked him to a gated Scottsdale neighborhood, where police say he jumped a fence and entered a backyard.
Officers quickly caught up to him and arrested him.
One 13 year old girl who lives in that neighborhood says Spoon had been following several of her friends on Snapchat through his alleged fake account,
She wonders if he was in their neighborhood for them that night.
"Kind of like freaked out about it, because they always come over, so I'm like maybe he came to my house. And it's like kind of creepy and nerve wracking," she said.
One father, who wants to remain anonymous, said he relieved by the arrest.
"That guy took things. He took safety from us," he said. "We're a pretty buttoned-up house. We have surveillance cameras. We have German shepherds. So, when they're barking at everything, or the dogs are moving through the yard, it's nerve-wracking. It's been a nerve-wracking thing that wasn't a nerve-wracking thing our whole lives."