I Know Where Your Cat Lives launched

I just launched a new ongoing project this week. Here’s the text, a video and some screenshots. I’ll post more about how I made it soon.

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. 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.

“I Know Where Your Cat Lives” iknowwhereyourcatlives.com is a data experiment that visualizes a sample of 1 million public pics of cats on a world map, locating them by the latitude and longitude coordinates embedded in their metadata. The cats were accessed via publicly available APIs provided by popular photo sharing websites. 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 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.

Folks can also contribute to a kickstarter to help with hosting costs.

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14 thoughts on “I Know Where Your Cat Lives launched

  1. The word “enormity” does not mean “enormousness” or “hugeness”. “Enormity” means grave or widespread (often both) evil, as in “The enormity of Hitler’s final solution …”

    Then again, perhaps “enormity” is the right word after all. Mining the unprecedented amount of personal information that the Web makes makes freely available, of which your site exposes a fragment, can be used maliciously. The NSA’s much larger data trove beggars Orwell’s worst nightmare.

  2. Interesting information. Would like more details though.

    The coordinates in the metadata, latitude and longitude, of where exactly? Where the picture was taken or where the picture was uploaded?

    Say I took pictures of my grandma’s cat while on vacation in Italy, but didn’t upload until back home in Nebraska. Which coordinates get uploaded? How specific are these coordinates? Can you locate the street I live on or is it just the city of 10 million I live in?

  3. GWade it depends on the software you use, but most of the meta data attached to a photo is embedded when the file is made. Additional information could be embedded or correlated via a database when a user uploads the file. The specificity of the coordinates could be perfectly matched (up to estimated 7.8 meters accuracy) or close by. Additionally, you can tag any image with “cat” and indeed that is a popular term for many non cat photos I have noticed.

  4. impressive! i didn’t know about this embeded meta data tracking. So i suppose you could do this with food photos, say you represent peoples food pictures on a map and the strangest food comes up in the strangest locations. like lasagna in the desert.

  5. I’ve looked into the EXIF information of pics taken on my Motorola smartphone, but there isn’t any GPS information there. Is this because my GPS always seems to be whirling about trying to pinpoint my location?

  6. This is not at all news really. This informations been out since I dont know. What everbody needs to know is that you need to learn your smartphone, you need to know what functions are in process all the time. For instance. This metadata problem kan be easily fixed by turning of geodata in your photo app and to be on the safe sideturning if your gps. Doing this will completely removed this issue.

  7. For awhile ago I took 2 picture that where identical, only difference where at the smartphone setting where the first picture had geodata active inside the camera app and aswell gps turned on. That picture showed enough information to find me while the other picture had none of the above turned on and therefore no sensitiv metadata.

  8. Great, interesting, and relevant project…. but….one of the cat photo pics in my local area (Charlton, London) is of a kid with his/her face painted with a black nose and whiskers! Ha ha!

  9. Sara, Thanks for your comments! Ah yes, I have seen lots of strange photos on social media that are tagged with “cat.” Feel free to flag them “not a cat” :-)

  10. Ah OK – just read further re word ‘cat’ also being in your search so that pulls in other cat related images. Once again, excellent project….

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