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[liberationtech] Why Metadata Matters

Bruce Potter at IRF bpotter at
Thu Jun 6 14:27:40 PDT 2013

The other point worth keeping in mind is that NSA can keep this data forever (hence the humoungous cyber farm NSA is building in Utah) --

So a decade from now they can check the metadata to see if it fits some theory a paranoid analyst thinks might have happened half a lifetime ago.


On Jun 6, 2013, at 1:44 PM, Griffin Boyce <griffinboyce at> 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
> -- 
> Technical Program Associate, Open Technology Institute
> #Foucault / PGP: 0xAE792C97 / OTR: saint at
> --
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