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Scott Arciszewski

Software, Privacy, Security, Innovation

Metadata IS Data

August 19, 2013 4:05 PM • Information Theory, Opinion, Politics, Security

From a story by The Washington Post:

Some Obama administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have defended Alexander with assertions that the agency’s internal definition of “data” does not cover “metadata” such as the trillions of American call records that the NSA is now known to have collected and stored since 2006. Those records include the telephone numbers of the parties and the times and durations of conversations, among other details, but not their content or the names of callers.

What an abhorrent abuse of the English language! Metadata is data. It's even in the fucking name:

META means self. When used as a prefix in English, it signifies self-reference. META tags in HTML contain information about the entire document.

Thus, metadata means "data about data". There's nothing in that definition that means "this isn't really data."

Furthermore, if metadata wasn't data, then there would be little point in capturing it. The NSA wouldn't be spending money on hard drives if it wasn't data.

The Obama Administration is wrong. Metadata is still data.

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