The Business-Technology Weave

Aug 4 2013   12:34PM GMT

The Government, Metadata, and You

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

A recent article, FBI Pressures Internet Providers to Install Surveillance Software, had me revisiting my thoughts regarding recent government assurances.

Various politicians, pundits, and agencies have made assurances that the government is only collecting metadata – for phone calls, internet activity, and other personal pursuits.  Let’s take phone calls as an example for an important point I’ll be making here.

Supposedly, the government only records (in a database) the following regarding your phone calls and mine:  Time of initiation for the call; duration; who initiated it; who was called – and maybe a few other collateral things.  In other words, the government isn’t listening in, or recording, or transcribing what you’re saying… discussing, etc., because they are only collecting metadata.

Ah – the golden word here:  Metadata.  What is metadata?  I like this definition:  Metadata is data about other data.  Hence those surrounding details of the calls…

Hmmm.  But I sense a real problem.  Metadata can include ANYTHING you deem to be…  metadata.

How about high value concepts?  Those are in the body of calls and records – but you darn sure can collect high value concepts and stuff those under the umbrella of metadata – and plenty of people and organizations do.  And… “high value concepts” is a fungible term.  A couple words, or a phrase, not enough to satisfy the government’s concept – or need – for certain high value concepts?  No problem – just expand to a couple lines… grab the whole paragraph that certain terms appear in.  Next thing you know, the whole body of the record is “high value,” and a part of the “metadata.”

And… then… any politician can stand in front of a microphone, and state with all seeming sincerity, “Americans have no reason to fear the FBI’s (NSA’s, etc.) collection of data… we’re merely collecting metadata…”.

Pay attention.    :^ )   This will get hot.

NP:  Bad Company; Extended Versions.  Ok, I bit – thinking this was expanded versions of studio stuff.  It’s live from 2010, UK.  Took me 2 months to finally give this a listen.  It’s fine.  Boz is missing (having died), but we’ve got an ex-Heart guitarist, and one from Paul’s solo band on stage, and the other three originals (Paul, Mick and Simon).  Surprisingly fine, now that I’m listening.  However, beware some of the other entries in the Extended Versions series (I’m told).

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