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While the creeping loss of our privacy and personal data to big mega-corporations is terrifying and all, it sometimes doesn't make for very compelling reading. So when artist and programmer Owen Mundy wanted a way to visualise just how bad surveillance culture has become, he figured out how to do it with the internet's favourite attention-grabbing animal of choice: cats.
I Know Where Your Cat Lives is a data experiment pinpoints the exact location of pet cats all over the world, using metadata unknowingly provided by their owners. There are over 15 million cat photos shared on public image hosting sites like Instagram, Flickr and Twitpic. But what these feline photographers don't know is that digital cameras and smartphones embed latitude and longitude coordinates in each image.
Armed with these coordinates, Mundy's site pinpoints the location of the photograph (and the cat in question) and superimposes it onto satellite imagery. Clicking the "random cat" button takes you to another feline in another geotagged location. And while Mundy has left out specific street names or addresses, the resulting images are enough to make you realise that it's all too easy to figure out your cat's address – and, by extension, your own location – from that casually instagrammed #cat photo.
If you're concerned that your pet could be giving away more of your personal data than you'd like, there are some tools that help scrub metadata from your images. But I guess the lesson here is: think before you tweet that cute cat pic.
Watch this video explaining how I Know Where Your Cat Lives works:
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing