Digital Life

Meet The Guy Who's Putting Your Cat On The Map — To Prove A Point

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Owen Mundy, an assistant professor at Florida State University, tells Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel about a project called "I Know Where Your Cat Lives," which aims to create awareness about internet privacy.


OK, Robert, it's time for the two of us to talk about a pervasive threat to our online privacy.


That's right. It is time to talk about cats. Millions and millions of cat photos have been uploaded to the Internet.

CORNISH: Little cats.


SIEGEL: Big cats.


CORNISH: Grumpy cat.


SIEGEL: And those cat photos can reveal more than just how cute your cat is or how much time you have on your hands.

OWEN MUNDY: I was using Instagram like everybody and photographing, you know, my life.

SIEGEL: That's Owen Mundy, an associate professor from Florida State University.

MUNDY: And it never occurred to me that my phone was geotagging all the photographs with the location and including that information and uploading that.

CORNISH: The surprise drove Mundy to create the website, I Know Where Your Cat Lives. He took pictures publicly shared on photo sites like Instagram and Flickr - photos tagged with the word cat.

SIEGEL: He then used the location data embedded in those pictures to place them on a Google map. And we should say he gathered a million of these cat photos. Well, every so often it's someone dressed in a catsuit.

CORNISH: So when you go to, you never know what you're going to see. A different photo pops up every time you visit the site.

MUNDY: You get to see inside of other people's houses. You get to see their cats. And you get to see sometimes them holding their cats.

CORNISH: Mundy says he wants to raise awareness about online privacy and how much information we give out.

SIEGEL: If your cat pic appears on the site, you can remove it by changing the privacy settings on the original photo. Oddly, for a person who created a cat website, he is not a cat person. But he's coming around.

MUNDY: It wasn't when I started. I'm about 50 percent of the way there now, actually. That's an outcome I didn't expect.

SIEGEL: And one other surprise...

CORNISH: People have e-mailed him Mundy not to get their cats taken off the map but put on it.

SIEGEL: Which goes to show you can't herd cats, but you can't herd cat owners either.

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