If You Share Your Cat Photos, I Know Where Your Cat Lives

While sharing photos of your cat may seem harmless, it could give away your location to the Internet.

Did you know location tracking is one of the perils of sharing public photos of your adorable pets? This means that each time you share a location-specific image, the Internet will know where your cat lives, which means, they will also know where you live.

Each digital cat photo acts as a data point on the global map of kitten-lovers’ locations, otherwise known as “I Know Where Your Cat Lives.” It appears nearly harmless, like this:

cat photo

cat photo

Yes, that is the environs of Paris, France all covered in cat data points. The map was made by a Florida State University computer, which scans photo metadata of all publicly-shared cat photos on various social networks, and then displays the images along with their location using a clustering algorithm. The current map is only a sampling of 1 million public pictures of cats, definitely not all of the Internet’s cat photos. The current number of cat photos is somewhere over 15 million, and that number is growing daily. To maintain the project and grow the data bank as fast as Internet cat images, “I Know Where Your Cat Lives” is seeking Kickstarter funding:

Hosting is expensive. Consider these facts about web hosting costs for popular sites:
 

  • Facebook spent ~ $60 million in 2009 on web hosting costs
  • Google spent $2.3 billion on a new data center in 2008
  • Microsoft spends $500 million on each new data center they build

Data for recent years is not available yet, but figures are expected to rise.
 
With 32GB of cat data, we are expecting huge amounts of traffic. While we’re no Facebook, one million cats multiplied by tens of thousands of hits a day requires a beefy server to answer all those requests. Who doesn’t love cats?

So, in exchange for your money, the project will explore “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.”

The fundraiser also comes with the typical Kickstarter swag like drink cozies, plush catnip toys and a special archival print poster of some Internet cats on maps.