Your Online Cat Photos Tell Others Where You Are

“I Know Where Your Cat Lives”. Therefore I know where you live. That’s the message. How does this person know where your cat lives? Answer: modern cameras and smartphone cameras include GPS technology (Global Positioning System) so that when you take a photo of your cat the camera records “metadata” (hidden information about the photograph which includes location, the shutter speed, F stop and whether you used flash or not etc.).

Locating your cat and you using image metadata information

When you upload the photos to a photo-hosting site the metadata goes with it. Then Owen Mundy, an assistant professor of art at Florida State University, extracted the data and built a website around it! Most of the cat positions come from the United States, Russia, Britain and Brazil.

Here is the trick…you can strip metadata from a image using Yahoo Smush.it™ 😉 So, if you want to guard your privacy use Smush.it™ because you’ll never know who is watching you – it is the big brother world.

Mr Mundy’s site has I believe one million photo locations on it. He estimates 15m photos tagged with “cat” online. He is underestimating in my opinion. It is much more than that.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

View Comments

  • I am using a Galaxy tablet (about two years old) to take pics. How likely is metadata embedded in them?

    • There will be metadata but most of it is unrelated to GPS location. If you go onto Google Maps with your Galaxy is it able to locate your position automatically? If yes, it has GPS. My gut feeling is that you don't have GPS metadata. My iPhone has and my Sony camera. Big brother knows where I am.....

  • I'm not all that convinced that regular digital cameras have GPS. They have no communicating ability unlike cell phones with an integrated. camera. Cell phones need that position fixing ability to route calls by the most direct way, but that does not apply to an ordinary digital camera which is not a communicating device..

    • Agreed. Some digital cameras have GPS. It is probably confined to more top end cameras. I have a compact Sony G which has GPS. I never use the GPS facility!

  • I hope that doesn't apply to a regular digital camera but only to a phone with a camera built-in. My Sony is barely capable of taking a half decent picture never mind sending pin-point positioning data anywhere.

    • Modern digital cameras have GPS technology but the older ones don't. Modern smart phones all have GPS as far as I am aware because it allows the phone to locate the person's location and then map directions etc.

      GPS technology in smart phones also allows Big Brother (Google) to keep an eye on us! ;)

  • This is a little confusing to me.
    Does that mean that my cats can be located by someone when I post a pic on POC?
    I hope not.
    But, that this ability even exists freaks me out.

    • Any photo online anywhere could contain GPS metadata. It is built into many photographs taken with modern cameras and especially phones. If your camera does have that technology then your photos online would fall into the category described in the post. How modern is your camera? What camera do you have? Don't worry.

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Michael Broad

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