I tried Snapchat’s new subscription service and now I’m turning on Ghost Mode
Snapchat Plus users are able to see everywhere their friends on Snap Maps have been in the past 24 hours
Last month, Snapchat quietly rolled out its new subscription service, Snapchat Plus (Snapchat+). For £3.99 per month, it allows users to see everywhere their friends on Snap Maps have been in the last 24 hours.
That means even if you don’t pay for Snapchat Plus, if you have your Snap Maps turned on someone who has paid for the subscription is now able to see everywhere you’ve been for the past day, using a new featured called Ghost Trails.
Currently, Snap Maps only shows the latest location of where you were whilst on the app. The function is opt-in and users choose to share their last current location with their friends. Ghost Trails will record all the locations you’ve been in the past day when you used the app and make this location history available.
Snapchat stress that Ghost Trails only allows the user to see their friends who already have their Snap Maps turned on. They also argue this is simply a new way of “visualising the same data that has always been available between friends who choose to share their location on Snap Maps”.
But the reality for lots of users is they won’t know everybody they are friends with on Snapchat. For young people, Snapchat is a social currency growing up. You meet someone new and you add them on Snapchat. I’ve had Snapchat for the past nine years and I can count the number of people on one hand who I’ve un-added as a friend on the app.
But how worried should you be about Ghost Trails? What about the other features the subscription offers? Is it actually worth getting a Snapchat subscription? I spent the last week trialling the subscription service and this is what I found:
Ghost Trails takes Snap Maps too far
Ghost Trails is an extension of Snap Maps. However, whereas Snap Maps allows you to see where your friend currently is or at least where they were they the last time they used the app, Ghost Trails records every location they’ve been in the past day and shows you where they went every time they were on the app.
If you use Snapchat regularly and have your Snap Maps on, you end up not only showing everything you’ve been up to in the last day but also a detailed route of how you got there. If you haven’t used the app between two locations, you can see how the app just draws a straight line from A to B and doesn’t reveal your precise route. However, say you were on the bus or train or even walking and you were using the app throughout that journey, all your friends will see the route you took.
This is worrying to me for two reasons. Firstly, it feels like you are giving everyone who has access to your Snap Maps the ability to stalk you. They can see where you’ve been going, they can work out what routes you take and they can quite easily work out how to find you. In the picture above of popular Birmingham student area, Selly Oak, you can work out they’ve just arrived by train, you know which pub they’ve been to, if you zoomed in further you’d see all the pubs and shops they visited in Selly Oak before leaving and going into the city centre.
Secondly, whilst the Ghost Trails feature only shows where that person has been for the past 24 hours, it would not be difficult for someone to check your movements every day and establish your patterns. Where do you often go? Where is that usually from? Where do you usually go from there? It feels like it could allow that person access to your routines.
It’s really hard to understand who this feature benefits or why Snapchat think its users want to share so much personal information with their Snapchat friends. Friends is really a cloaked term for potentially hundreds of people, some of whom you might only have met once, have added on Snapchat and now only know them by a first name and a cartoon Bitmoji.
To disable who has access to your locations, you need to go to your account settings and then under the heading “Privacy Controls” select “See My Location”. The simplest method is to turn on Ghost Mode which hides your location from all your friends and clears your Ghost Trail. The other option allows you to deselect individual accounts you don’t want to allow access to your location or alternatively only add specific accounts you do want to give access.
What else can you do with Snapchat Plus?
Whilst normal users can see who has viewed and screeshotted their story, Snapchat Plus offers the ability to see who has viewed your story more than once. Lots of people won’t admit it, but seeing who has viewed your story and how quickly they’ve viewed your story is an addictive part of Snapchat.
However, other than seeing a pair of 👀 that indicate the number of people who have rewatched your story, the update doesn’t tell you the all-important question of who actually rewatched your story. Alongside not knowing which one of your friends rewatched your story, it also doesn’t say how many times someone rewatched it.
The other features are a bit gimmicky. Snapchat Plus allows you to change the app icon from a choice of 34 different variations of the Snapchat logo. Does the black Snapchat Plus icon look cooler on your phone? Yes. Is that worth £3.99 a month? Absolutely not.
Snapchat Plus also comes with Friend Solar Systems. This is quite a convoluted way of bringing back one of Snapchat’s original popular features, the ability to see the order of someone else’s best friends.
If you click on your best friend’s Bitmoji, you’ll be able to see either a “Best Friends” or “Friends” badge. Best Friends means you are both in each other’s top eight friends. Friends means you’re one of their top eight friends but they aren’t one of your top eight friends. When you click on the badge, you get to see your Bitmoji sitting on a planet, the planet indicating how high you are on their best friend list. Time to relearn the Solar System or follow this link.
You also have the opportunity to pin one of your friends as No. 1 BFF which does nothing as far as I can tell. You can only pin one person and only you can view this pin.
An even less useful feature is the opportunity to have a small black Snapchat Plus badge next to your name so that people can know you have splashed out £3.99-a-month for the subscription.
Snapchat is coming to your laptop
Although on the app it says, Snapchat Plus users can already try out this feature, the web address reloads to a site that says it’s coming soon. Regardless it will be rolled out to Snapchat Plus users first. It looks very much like it will rival Messenger and WhatsApp’s desktop version with a heavier focus on messaging and video calls rather than sending traditional photo snaps.
Although Snapchat Plus users will get to try out this exciting feature first, it seems likely this will be rolled out to all users afterwards.
After trialling Snapchat Plus for a week, I’m glad I did. I didn’t initially know about Snapchat Plus when it was launched earlier this month and I had no idea about Ghost Trails. I fear other people won’t know that by having their Snap Maps turned on, they are consenting to having more of their location history visible and sold as a premium service by Snapchat. The other features are trivial in comparison and whilst fun, Snapchat would win over more users by offering these extensions as free updates rather than packaging them into a subscription.
A spokesperson for Snapchat told The Tab: “For all Snapchatters, location-sharing is off by default and completely optional. Snapchatters who do decide to share their location on the Map will only be visible to those they have selected. We don’t give anyone the option to share their location publicly with people they have not proactively and mutually added as a friend.
“Snapchat updates your location when you have the app open, so if your phone is just in your pocket without you using the app your location will not update.
“In June, we introduced Snapchat Plus, a premium subscription allowing Snapchatters to access a collection of exclusive, experimental and pre-release features. Ghost Trails allows Snapchat Plus subscribers to see an overview of where their friends have used Snapchat, if their friend that has explicitly opted-in to sharing their location with them.
“Ghost Trails is similar to our existing ‘Map Moves’ Snap Map feature which appears when a friend has recently traveled. and provides a new way of visualising the same data that has always been available between friends who choose to share their location on Snap Map.”