A new web site boasts the largest tracking database for cat pictures in the world. In order to post the pictures and identify the cat’s geographic location, the site gleans tracking data available on photos posted on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Owen Mundy highlights privacy concern by tracking cats
Owen Mundy, an assistant professor of art, used a Florida State University supercomputer to create the web site “I Know Where Your Cat Lives,” a report in the New York Times notes.
Mundy is actually a privacy activist trying to make a point. She created the site as a way of demonstrating “the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international mega corporations who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all,” she wrote in a blog post.
“Welcome to the today’s internet—you can buy anything, every website is tracking your every move, and anywhere you look you find videos and images of cats,” she wrote on the site. “Currently, there are 15 million images tagged with the word ‘cat’ on public image hosting sites, and daily thousands more are uploaded from unlimited positions on the globe.”
Cats located by the latitude and longitude coordinates
The project is a data experiment that helps users visualize a sample of 1 million public pics of cats on a world map. The site was developed by locating the cats by the latitude and longitude coordinates embedded in their metadata, exposing yet another privacy breach most were not aware existed.
“The cats were accessed via publicly available APIs provided by popular photo sharing websites,” the blog post says. “The photos were then run through various clustering algorithms using a supercomputer at Florida State University in order to represent the enormity of the data source.”
This web site project has two primary goals. First, the sociable and humorous appreciation of domesticated felines. But this is just the outer goal. The real point is to expose the status quo of “personal data usage by startups and international mega corporations 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.”
As the Cats database was announced, a new tracking tool was revealed by Pro-Publica and Mashable. The new tracking method uses “Add This” technology to track a user’s total browsing history and installs a new application on the browser. The application is not identifiable and cannot be blocked, the article says.