Does Posting Pictures Compromise Privacy?
A recent article in the New York Times, discussing “What the Internet Can See from Your Cat Pictures“, began with the statement, “Your cat may never give up your secrets. But your cat photos might.” The article went on to describe a site that is named, appropriately, “iknowwhereyourcatlives.com”, built by Florida State University professor Owen Mundy. The site’s web map shows the locations and photographs of thousands of cats, and, presumably, the location of the cat owners. The site was created to demonstrate “the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all,” Professor Mundy wrote describing the site.
We frequently write about location privacy in this blog, and for good reason. As the world becomes ever more monitored and measured, the 7+ billion humans inhabiting it are increasingly affected by these monitoring activities. They are also increasingly contributing to vast archives of data, often inadvertently, in part through the “Internet of Things.” An increasing proportion of the data collected can be mapped, and therefore, so can people’s location, movements, and habits. The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy site alone contains news and dozens of documents pointing to current issues of location privacy in our everyday lives. These include a recent story about privacy in the Boston Marathon and frequent reflections about laws and expectations of location privacy. We recommend that geospatial professionals be aware of the issues through this blog and sites such as the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy.
Geospatial technologies have proven to benefit our planet in ways unimaginable even a few years ago. However, those involved with the geospatial industry need to be included in the conversations about the privacy implications of the types of data collected to make improvements on our planet. And even seemingly innocuous activities such as posting pictures of your cat have their share of privacy implications.