The Internet has an endless appetite for two things. The first is people sharing more information than they had intended with companies that use that information to target advertising. The second is cat pictures. Yet what if there were a way to use cat pictures to teach us all a lesson about how much information we’re inadvertently sharing with the Internet?
Here’s the thing: smartphones have built-in cameras and global positioning system capabilities. When you send someone a digital photo, the GPS coordinates of where you took that picture are embedded in the image, waiting only for someone who cares about where you are to strip them out. It sounds like a minor thing, but it’s not: back in 2012, a reporter for Vice accidentally revealed where fugitive murder suspect and rich dude John McAfee was hiding by posting a simple iPhone snapshot.
If you wouldn’t post your home address on the Internet, make sure you aren’t uploading or sending geotagged photos. That’s where the site I Know Where Your Cat Lives comes in, combining education about online privacy with pictures of cats. IKWYCL takes public photos posted on sites like Flickr and Instagram that come with geographic data included and plots them on a map. A global map of cats.
The site explains its true purpose as follows:
This project explores two uses of the internet: the sociable and humorous appreciation of domesticated felines, and the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all. This website doesn’t visualize all of the cats on the net, only the ones that allow you to track where their owners have been.
There are only about a million cats on the map, chosen from the pictures available online that are tagged with the word “cat” and the location where they were taken.
If your own cat appears on the map, you can remove it simply by editing the privacy settings on the account that you used to upload it, or removing the geographic information from the photo, then re-uploading it. The site will then conceal your cat’s identity within 30 days.
Oh, and the site happens to be running a Kickstarter campaign right now, just in case you want to support the project of educating cats about online privacy.
I Know Where Your Cat Lives [Official Site] (Thanks, Olivia!)