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BNL Graduate Questions What The Internet Can See From Your Photos
Updated August 4, 2014 8:51 AM
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owen mundy.jpg

(UNDATED) - "I Know Where Your Cat Lives" has millions of cute adorable felines, but at the same time is a scary realization of how easy it is to access your data online.

The website was created by Owen Mundy, a 1993 Graduate of Bedford North Lawrence High School. He is the son of Martin and Becky Mundy of Williams.

Mundy, an assistant professor of art at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, uses images of cats uploaded to photosharing services, including Flickr, Twitpic and Instagram. He extractes latitude and longitude coordinates that many modern cameras, especially those in smartphones, attach to each image. His site displays random images from a sample of one million of the many millions of pictures tagged with the word "cat" online.

The images are displayed on a map using satellite imagery, with nearby cat photos also visible. Specific street addresses are not displayed, but the geographic information can leave few details to the imagination in rural areas.

"I Know Where Your Cat Lives", of course, has gone viral.

Mundy says the project explores two uses of the internet; the sociable and humorous appreciation of the domesticated felines, and has resurfaced concerns over online internet privacy.

"It's this wonderful, fun, entertaining thing, but it also enters the conversation .... of data use on the Internet," Professor Mundy, the project's creator told MSN news.

He says sites like Flickr and Instagra have default settings that provide less privacy for the user.

Still, "it's a little voyeuristic because you're peering into people's houses," he added. "I could have easily named this "Where do your children sleep. It tells us a lot about what is possible. We continuously have to watch what we say, post and do and what software does for us."

Mundy is trying to raise $2,500 on Kickstarter to pay for servers to keep the website running.

For those who find the concept a little creepy, the site allows people to remove their photos from the map by changing the privacy settings on the app they used to upload the photo.

"The irony is that the more people who feel this is an invasion or this is creepy will contribute to the demise of the project because all the cats will disappear," he added.

But here's the "weird twist": Even with people removing their photos, Mundy says he gets as many requests asking, "How can I get my cat on the map?"

To visit the website at iknowwhereyourcatlives.com.



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