A Cat-mapping Lesson in Privacy

Owen Mundy of Florida State University created the website I Know Where Your Cat Lives, which is a lot like Cat Map, a now-defunct site that proved popular last year. You can look at a random cat and see where it’s from, or scan the map for cats near you. The cats on the map were found on the internet. And that’s the lesson behind the project. The cat’s location were found using the photograph’s metadata embedded at Flickr or Instagram.  

“I was using Instagram to photograph my 3-year-old and one day I realized that the app had been recording and embedding the geographic coordinates in my backyard,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘I don't recall being asked by the app if I wanted to share this data.’ It was a creepy experience that I wanted to translate in a way that was equal parts scary and fun, but technically harmless.”

And since cats absolutely don’t understand the concept of privacy, this makes I Know Where Your Cat Lives an interesting test case for other areas of data analysis and visualization.

See, it’s a slightly less creepy way of letting you know how easy it is to track people from their online information. To that end, Mundy has made it very easy to remove your cat if you like, but he has also received submissions from people who want to add their cats. Read more about Mundy and his map at the daily Dot.

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