Your cat told us where you live

ST. LOUIS – You don't have to be a cat person to share a pride in posting about the one you love. But what if you're sharing more than you intended?

"There's somebody with their cat...that's real weird," said Keli Hermes as she scans a website that's getting international attention: iknowwhereyourcatlives.com.

The site tracks more than 7 million felines from around the world right down to the home where they live. It's all based on the hashtag "cats" and data that their owners often have no idea they're giving away.

"Honestly, I think it's pretty weird," said Hermes whose cat Roswald makes frequent appearances on her social media accounts.

"I read enough to know that when you post on social media you need to be mindful but I never thought that a picture of my cat would be the way someone would find me," said Hermes.

The professor, programmer, artist and brains behind "I know where your cat lives" is Owen Mundy with Florida State University.

"It worked great. It went viral immediately," said Mundy.

His goal wasn't to just make a website that freaks people out. But to warn us.

Mundy said he was photographing his daughter and posting pictures one day when he realized he was giving away his GPS coordinates with every Instagram pic he posted.

"And, 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," said Mundy.

To plug that leak, he created the cat tracking site to expose just how much information we often share without realizing it. And just maybe focus people on protecting their own privacy.

Because if today's internet is still in a "Wild West" stage of development, Mundy worries what could be lost as the Information Age expands - built on companies making money from your personal data.

"At the core we're talking about freedom movement and freedom of speech," said Mundy. "Even if you don't have anything to hide."

And the site may be working. Of the original one million cat photos he collected, 60 percent of the owners have changed their privacy settings so that the pics no longer appear. And Instagram has even tightened how much of your information it makes available to third-party developers.

But that's just one app.

"I think it's an ongoing problem and the next app that comes out you'll have to watch it in the same way," warns Mundy.

Turns out the adventures of Keli's cat Roswald are not on the site.

"Knock on wood I think I'm okay so far," she said.

© 2018 KSDK-TV


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