Using Geotagged Photos to Map Cats

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Each day, thousands of people upload photos of their cats containing metadata that tracks the location where the photo was taken. With over fifteen million feline photos and videos containing geographic location information, that’s a lot of mappable cats.

Led by Owen Mundy, a researcher and technologist, I Know Where Your Cat Lives is a project that mapped out geotagged photos of cats from several social media platforms. 

Part curiosity project and part privace awareness, Mundy and his team scraped publicly-available metadata from a sampling of one million geotagged photos using APIs from Flickr, Twitpic, Instagram, and other social media sites.

Screenshot from the "I Know Where Your Cat Lives" online mapping application.

An Associate Professor at Florida State University, Mundy studies the relationship between data and the public.  He used a supercomputer at the university in order to process the photos using various clustering algorithms.  The cats photos were then displayed using Google Maps with a satellite as the basemap.

The project is more curiosity than anything else.  Some errors are obvious in the photo filtering such as this photo mapped of two women with face paint on and another I discovered of a fisherman displaying a fish.  Since the original social media content isn’t included with the mapped photo, it’s hard to tell what triggered these being included.

Screenshot showing how some photos that aren't cats are ending up being mapped for the "I know where your cat lives" application.