Posting personal pics that can become Memes.

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC

For some inexplicable reason there are hundreds of memes of cats with funny sayings and an entire website devoted to them (www.lolcats.com). Even non-cat owners have contributed to the popularity of “Grumpy Cat.” But most of these funny cat photos originated as someone’s personal snapshots. As the most common picture-taking device today is a cell phone, many of these cat photos also have longitude and latitude coordinates attached. This can enable anyone to track down the location of these cats, which is what one professor at Florida State University has done. 

Owen Mundy has created a website, “I Know Where Your Cat Lives,” that tracks and maps cat photos, showing the street, city locations around the world. His intent is to show “the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all,” according to his blog post. Simply put, more and more people are giving away their privacy without not realizing it and corporations are taking advantage of this fact.  Ever wonder how you appeared on some company’s marketing list?  Remember that once you put something on the internet, you have virtually no control over what happens to it.

It may seem rather ridiculous to track cats, but think of the other photos you may post online- your children, a new car, inside your house, boat, or jewelry you got for your anniversary. Thieves and scammers are always on the lookout for an easy target and if it’s this easy for a professor to track your house with a photo of your cat, think how easy it will be for a thief or someone who means you harm. Thieves are increasingly scanning social media, making it easier to steal people’s identities.  To help combat this, make sure you have strict privacy settings within all your social media. You can also disable the geotagging on your cell phone.  As always, sometimes it’s better to just not share things online. 

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