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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

(CAT MEOWING)

SIEGEL: Big cats.

(CAT MEOWING)

CORNISH: Grumpy cat.

(CAT HISSING)

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 iknowwhereyourcatlives.com, 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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.