AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

The Potential Dangers of Cat Photos, Selfies and the Mobile Phone

Posted by Ben Gregson on August 6, 2014

Cat photos and selfies are an important part of the internet. I may not take any, or view many, but I can appreciate how much digital real estate is taken up by these images, and that they are an important cultural phenomenon. What information is your cat giving away, though?

Owen Mundy attempted to illustrate the potential dangers of wanton online information sharing with the site, “I Know Where Your Cat Lives.” On this site, Mundy displays the location of cats in images taken from public areas of social media sites. This location is retrieved through metadata encoded in the image file itself.

Every digital file contains metadata, hidden data that provides information, such as when it was created and where it was created. By default, nearly every major smartphone will put a GPS tag onto images taken with the phone, and every single image will reveal the location it was taken to anyone who knows how to look.

It’s very possible to avoid these dangers with a little foresight though: cats images don’t need to disappear. More importantly, they shouldn’t disappear. What users can do is use free software that scrubs metadata from files before they upload them. Additionally, know what privacy settings you are sharing your images with. If they’re public, everyone in the world can find it.

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