Metadata : Surveillance and Prediction

Metadata literally means “data about data.” In the context of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) — i.e. communications and information that passes through technology — the term usually refers to data that is not part of the communication’s content but are used for its routing. This includes data on the origin, recipient, date and geographic location. Because they are essential for the proper functioning of services, metadata is hard to hide and usually stays unencrypted. Much like a mailman would need to know the recipient of a piece of mail in order to deliver it correctly in the offline world, an email service provider must know the recipient of an email to ensure its delivery in the online world. This analogy applies to any ICT-mediated interactions. Hence, even if the consumer apps that we download onto our mobile phones were fully encrypted, thus providing confidentiality of content, most of these apps would be unable to guarantee the full anonymity of users and the terminals used...

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