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Lawmakers raise concerns about development of “Friend Map” Instagram feature

In World
June 08, 2024

Instagram remains one of the top social media apps for teens with feeds of videos and photos. But soon, there could be an opt-in feature that allows users to track more than just trends.

It’s called “Friend Map.” According to online news service, TechCrunch, the feature would be similar to Apple’s “Find My” app where you can share your location with friends and vice versa. But some members of Congress worry this kind of feature could be harmful for teens.

In a letter to Instagram’s CEO, Congresswomen Lori Trahan (D – Massachusetts) and Kathy Castor (D – Florida) said geolocation is a violation of privacy. They said in part, “furthermore, the public sharing of that information puts young users at risk of further surveillance, violence and unsolicited interactions.”

“We are in a crisis with social media here in America,” said Shelby Knox, campaign director at ParentsTogether.

Shelby Knox works at the national organization, ParentsTogether. She said SnapChat rolled out its Snap Map opt in feature in 2017 and it raised similar concerns back then.

Knox said there are reports of location-based features potentially exposing teens to possible danger.

ALSO READ: Facebook and Instagram face fresh EU digital scrutiny over child safety measures

“Predators using these locations, geolocation to find kids and take them to different locations,” said Knox. “Or that drug dealers are using these to get drugs to kids.”

In a written statement about this letter, Meta said “We’re focused on building out safety precautions and mitigations before we explore offering this broadly.”

Earlier this year, the social media giant also announced new restrictions that prevent adults from messaging teens who don’t follow them on Instagram.

Meta has also developed 50 tools and features to for teens on the platform and to help parents set boundaries for younger users. This includes providing controls that allow parents to set limits on when and for how long teens can use the platform.

In the meantime, ParentsTogether is urging Congress to pass regulation over these platforms.

“This moment, this crisis demands new solutions and immediate action from Congress and that’s what the parents we work with reiterate over and over again,” said Knox.

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