Even Your Cat Can’t Hide…

The boundary between public and private, while never having been fixed is further blurred by the mediation of space by digital technology. The process of media object mutation (Berry et al, 2013, p2) is explained through the example of the camera a device used for representation combining with the phone, a device for transmission, allowing for a new creative response, but one that can have unforeseen consequences.

A work that demonstrates the consequences is Owen Mundy’s I Know Where Your Cat Lives (2014). By collecting images of cats from social networking sites, Mundy has used public data (that the user probably considered to be private) to extrapolate a new dataset and create a map showing the location the image was taken. That many users were unaware they were giving away such detailed information was demonstrated by the removal of some of the images (through the changing of privacy settings) after the work was published.

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I Know Where Your Cat Lives – the website.

This work was possible due to the ability to combine capta, creating a dataset (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011, p5) of everything possible to know about a person, (or their cat) from the information available, taking physical addresses from the virtual world. Another example comes from a Vice (2012) magazine interview, accompanied by a photograph, with John McAfee who was then on the run. Unfortunately the photograph came complete with exif data, thus revealing his whereabouts.

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The photo that got McAfee caught?

That privacy is given so little thought when using technology is one of the discussions on the Programmable City (2016) blog that considers the consequences of the internet of things, when the software that runs the ‘things‘ can so easily be hacked.

The fact that the undervaluing of privacy, and hacking is so prevalent is not that surprising considering that many of the functions of software are seen as extensions of already existing systems (previously un-networked so with fewer privacy implications) and the way coding is written – impossible to separate from the skills, background, political and cultural environment in which is it created (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011, pp6-20).

Berry, C, Harbord, J & Moore, R.O, (2013). Public Space, Media Space, p2. Palgrave Macmillan.

Kitchin, R. & Dodge, M., 2011, p5 Code/Space Software and Everyday Life, MITPress.

Mundy, O. (2014). I Know Where Your Cat Lives. http://iknowwhereyourcatlives.com/cat/3903f3797d [accessed 28 February 2016].

Programmable City, The, (2016). Privacy is an Afterthought when Convenience is King http://fusion.net/story/250609/internet-of-things-vs-privacy/ [accessed 28 February 2016].

Vice, (2012). We are with John McAfee Right Now Suckers. www.vice.com/en_uk/read/we-are-with-john-mcafee-right-now-suckers [accessed 28 February 2016].

Wired, (2012). How Trusting in Vice Led to John McAfee’s Downfall. www.wired.com/2012/12/how-vice-got-john-mcafee-caught/ [accessed 28 February 2016].

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