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[liberationtech] Why Metadata Matters

Gustaf Björksten gustaf at
Thu Jun 6 11:06:06 PDT 2013

Well if there was no privacy-invading information to be gleaned from the
metadata then the NSA would not go to such lengths to obtain it.
Inherent in the action of obtaining it, is the admission that the
metadata is valuable to the NSA to spy on you. Obvious, innit.


On 06/06/2013 01:44 PM, Griffin Boyce wrote:
>   I see a lot of people wondering why metadata matters.  "But they
> don't know *what* you're doing there!"  So I'll give a short example
> to illustrate how metadata can be used to not only determine who
> someone is talking to, but also to invade their privacy and uncover
> the most intimate details of their life.
>   Jane is at 16th & L Street for an hour.
>   Carla is at 16th & L Street for four hours. She's had a short visit
> previously.
>   James is at 16th & L Street for twenty minutes. He comes back at the
> same time every week.
>   Kris is at 16th & L Street for ten hours.
>   Rick is at 16th & L Street for eight hours every night.
>   Samantha has been there for three days and four hours.
> 16th & L Street is the address of a Planned Parenthood in Washington, DC.
>   Jane is having a physical.
>   Carla is having an abortion.
>   James receives his medication there. By visit time, location, and
> frequency, he is likely a trans guy. If his appointments were every
> two weeks, the metadata would indicate that James is a trans woman.
>   Kris is protesting there.
>   Rick works in an office in the same building.
>   Samantha dropped her phone in the Farragut West Metro Station and
> has been looking for it ever since.
> And that's just location data. If one calls a physician every day,
> perhaps they have a major medical problem. If a crime happens on the
> other side of town, and you suddenly start calling attorneys... did
> you do it?  There are numerous explanations for either of those
> scenarios, but this kind of metadata in isolation can be used to tell
> almost any story you want.
> Stay safe out there.
> best,
> Griffin Boyce

Gustaf Björksten
Technology Director
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