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The Rightful Fear Behind the Mass Collection of Metadata

  • 16 September 2017
  • Jesse Parker

We have all heard of data, but what is metadata? Well, metadata is data that describes and provides information about other data. For example, if you make a phone call, the data collected about that call (when and where it was made, who initiated the call, as well as who was on the receiving end, the duration of the call, etc.) that is metadata.


Metadata is most often used to locate and organize content on your computer and online. However, it isn’t specifically a digital concept. It has been used for decades as an organizing tactic. For example, back in the good old days of BlockBuster or Hollywood Video metadata was used to organize movies and games based off of genre or date of release.

However, we live in the digital age and with The Patriot Act still in effect, there is much cause for concern when it comes to metadata. Unbeknownst to many, we accrue masses of metadata every day which could give a little more insight into your personal life than you may like.

Someone who could gain access to all of the metadata produced by your phone will know who you’re calling, how long you are speaking with them, who you are texting, how regularly you call or text someone, where you are, where you have been, etc. If you throw Google into the mix this person could easily find out who you are, and who you have been calling or texting. This information alone is enough to make anyone uncomfortable, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Today, you connect everything through Facebook or other social media sites and link debit cards to different websites and even save your bank cards to your phone. All for the sake of convenience, not realizing how easy it would be for someone to gather that information and know every public and private aspect of your life.

The consequences are far greater than just having your identity stolen, which would be no problem for an average hacker to do with all of the data and metadata we amass. The gathering of metadata is a complete violation of our right as citizens to privacy.


It has been proven that the NSA was using a program to collect and analyze metadata from phone calls. Just in 2016, the NSA collected 151 million phone records.

This was after the USA Freedom Act was passed into law in 2015, which modified several provisions of the Patriot Act in order to curb bulk surveillance.

Many people are quick to defend The Patriot Act, which quite literally means “United and Strengthening American by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”. The release of thousands of NSA documents by Edward Snowden proved that the NSA was, in fact, gathering information on not only suspected terrorists but other governments and their own citizens.

This is a direct violation of our civil rights allotted to us by the Constitution. Many have and will argue that you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. However, approaching a situation in which the federal government is infringing on our rights with a meaningless anecdote is a slippery slope. Today it’s our right to privacy, but tomorrow it could very well be our right to free speech.

About Jesse Parker