It sounds like the title of a horror movie aimed at teen cat lovers, but instead of ’90s starlets like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar, the beauties being stalked are tabbies and calicos.
IKnowWhereYourCatLives.com is a website masterminded and programmed by Professor Owen Mundy of Florida State University. According to THV11, Mundy says his goal is to warn people about posting pictures that give away their personal GPS coordinates.
“It worked great. It went viral immediately,” said Mundy of the site, which tracks over 7 million cats globally. It even finds them right inside their homes, just based on the hashtag “cats” and data, i.e. the aforementioned GPS coordinates attached to photos people post to social media. Mundy says these cat owners are unaware of how much they’re revealing about their private lives.
The professor says he had the idea — and realized the information he was giving away via GPS — one day while photographing his daughter and posting her pictures to Instagram.
“I realized that all of that data was made available to all the third party developers … I saw it as a problem, it’s a data leak,” Mundy told THV11.
Mundy’s goal with the site is to influence people to protect their privacy, and he thinks that these cat photos are a way to help folks understand just how much information they’re unwittingly exposing about themselves. He notes that if the internet is currently in a “Wild West” stage of development, as it expands, companies may surreptitiously benefit financially from your personal data.
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To that end, IKnowWhereYourCatLives.com seems to be making its mark. Mundy reports that about 60 percent of the 1 million original cat pictures he’s collected no longer appear on the site. This indicates that owners have eventually caught on and changed their privacy settings.
And while it’s just one app, Instagram has clamped down on how much of users’ private information it allows third-party developers to access. Nevertheless, Munday say it’s an ongoing issue.
“The next app that comes out, you’ll have to watch it in the same way,” he says. Me-yikes!