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What Does Six Months of Meta-Data Look Like?

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the i-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.

Privacy 60

SpicyBrownMustard sends in a fascinating data visualization at Zeit Online showing what information about a person's life can be gleaned from cellphone metadata. Quoting: "Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet. By pushing the play button, you will set off on a trip through Malte Spitz's life. The speed controller allows you to adjust how fast you travel, the pause button will let you stop at interesting points. In addition, a calendar at the bottom shows when he was in a particular location and can be used to jump to a specific time period. Each column corresponds to one day."

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60 comments

This is years old (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 10 months ago | (#44170049)

This was years ago. I think it was even on Slashdot.

Re:This is years old (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170121)

Yeah, but now we know the NSA has these on all allied politicians. I think it would be interesting to see how theirs compares to zeit's. I'm guessing its more accurate, but has a less html5 compliant interface.

Re:This is years old (4, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 10 months ago | (#44170123)

While we're on the subject, who came up with the internet rule that no discussion shall take place more than once? That it's old or that it was discussed years ago doesn't mean it isn't relevant today.

Re:This is years old (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170183)

Could you repeat the question please?

Re:This is years old (5, Insightful)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | about 10 months ago | (#44170279)

Control freak moderators on shitty forums decided that years ago. You are supposed to use the search function to find a thread, but then you cannot post in it, as it is locked for going to long without a bump; you cannot start a new thread without being redirected to the old, and having your new thread locked.

It's basically a way to be obsessed with rules and wave your dick around. This is good because it shows how long you've been on the site, and proves that you are a valuable contributor (a very important thing for people with low self-esteem).

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44171903)

Is that how it works? Threads are postable until there is too big of a time gap between posts? I always assumed it was a set number of days.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44172053)

That's how it is on Slashdot, but most forums work the other way.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44172413)

Thanks for replying but your answer is ambiguous. Is it tomAtoe or tomAHtoe?

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44172707)

Yes.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44173011)

Potatoe

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44290701)

Just doing my part to keep the thread alive...

Re:This is years old (4, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about 10 months ago | (#44170363)

I think people are just taking the idea of dupes too far. Dupes happen within a short period of time and are a result of sloppy editing.

This is NOT A DUPE.

This would be a great link to add to for every discussion on Snowden as a response to people who say that what the NSA is doing is OK because it's only "metadata." Then tell them that's the data they have on them as well, and ask them if they've been to a strip club recently.

Re:This is years old (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170503)

Doing that frames the discussion all wrong. Privacy is not about hiding wrong-doings! If you imply that, then "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" becomes a valid retort and this is an uphill battle that needn't happen [chronicle.com].

Re:This is years old (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44173371)

But in that case, at least a new summary should be written that places the old article into the new context.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44173079)

We have already had this conversation last year.

Re:This is years old (4, Informative)

Krazy Kanuck (1612777) | about 10 months ago | (#44170127)

Here's the subject from 2011, however i believe the visualizations is the news this time around. http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/03/26/179257/german-politician-demonstrates-extent-of-cellphone-location-tracking [slashdot.org]

Re:This is years old (4, Informative)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 10 months ago | (#44170267)

Here's the subject from 2011, however i believe the visualizations is the news this time around. http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/03/26/179257/german-politician-demonstrates-extent-of-cellphone-location-tracking [slashdot.org]

Reply to that article:

This would never happen in the USA (Score:4, Insightful)
  Saturday March 26, 2011 @03:54PM

No phone company could ever be forced to divulge those sort of records simply because a customer demanded it.

We have very strong privacy protections in this country - for the telcos

As Max Smart ("Get Smart" TV series) would say "Missed it by that much".

Re:This is years old (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 10 months ago | (#44170643)

I think you may be misunderstanding the poster's point. He's right on the money. You will never get your data. But big brother will. And anyone with a wad of cash to wave under the CEO's nose. "I can haz customer data?"

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44172261)

The concept of personal information is clearly different in the US than in Europe. He has the right for his data, not anybody else's from the EU perspective. Somehow the post referenced gives the impression that all rights relating to the personal information belong to the company. I'm not so sure that would imply a good protection of privacy.

Meta-discussions via reference: the true essence of /. fun.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170129)

It does seem to come from the i-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170133)

What a helpful comment. Oh wait, it's the opposite of that.

Re:This is years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170797)

Ditto

Re:This is years old (2)

bfandreas (603438) | about 10 months ago | (#44173333)

It was years ago. And it was in response to proposed legislation for mandatory telco data retention. The legislation didn't go anywhere due to massive protests.
Now it turns out that that data still gets stored and will be used after clearance by secret courts. Which actually makes you wonder if western democracy is even skin-deep.

So yes, Malte's data porn still is relevant. And he also quite recently published an op-ed on the NYT which does a good job explaining why state snooping doesn't fly in Germany. Even if he forgets to mention the massive protests against temporary random searching installed in the 70ies to catch red terrorists. "Temprary" turned out to partly include "the next 40 years and potentially indefinitely".

This isn't metadata. It's just data. (5, Insightful)

lasermike026 (528051) | about 10 months ago | (#44170171)

The term "metadata" being used by the politicians is off the bullcrap meter.

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170249)

Agreed. The collection of this 'metadata' amounts to being followed full-time, around-the-clock.

it even confused me (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170277)

And i've been in tech for quite a long time. Then I realized it just means "All Data"

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 10 months ago | (#44170343)

Do you mean submitter SpicyBrown, German politician Malte Spitz, Director of National Intelligence Director James Clapper, or NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander? Or the general media and NSA apologists?

Because Spitz never used the term. SpicyBrown is probably misusing the term. Clapper doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. And Alexander is probably spewing bullshit. And I'd give even money that the general media and NSA apologists don't have a clue what metadata entails.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44170365)

Data in this case would be the content of the calls, as in what was said. Metadata is the date, time, location, panel number, frequency, etc.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (0)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#44170369)

Data in this case would be the content of the calls, as in what was said. Metadata is the date, time, location, panel number, frequency, etc.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#44170507)

Nope. It's metadata only in very specific reference to phone calls. In every other sense, it's data, pure and simple. It's data in terms of location tracking. If you had tracking information from a GPS, that would be data. If they were tracking you by machine reading license plates, taken from security camera, that would be data. If they followed you around and recorded your location, that would be data. Just because the tracking info comes from a cell provider's records, doesn't make it any less than tracking data.

When they say they're only collecting "metadata, not the calls themselves," they're being deliberately, disingenuously, misleading.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#44170647)

When they say they're only collecting "metadata, not the calls themselves," they're being deliberately, disingenuously, misleading.

Well, the politicians are lying, but they've managed a rare case of using a buzzword correctly. I know, I'm as shocked as you are. Metadata refers to side-channel data. For example, a video stream may contain information about when it was recorded, the source, bitrate, etc. This is all metadata in that it isn't data needed for the file (or application) to perform its primary function.

In the case of "meta data" for cell phones, the source, destination, length of call, encoding medium, etc., is all metadata with regards to the call itself. But metadata is a subjective and context-sensitive term. One use case for a particular data set or stream may not need access to, or even knowledge of, the meta data. For other uses, the metadata is the data; The stream is what is irrelevant. So to understand what is and isn't metadata, you must first know what the intended application is.

So the politicians are correct in that call log information is "metadata" as far as placing/receiving phone calls is concerned. However, it's not metadata in the context of wire tapping -- you can claim it's not a breach of privacy, but that's like calling the tail of a dog a leg. It doesn't mean it's a leg... it means you changed the definition because you're a lying sack of shit. :}

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#44170721)

I suspect (without seeing the actual data provided), that it includes information associated not only with calls, but SMSs and data usage, perhaps even cell tower registration where there's no user communication. If so, then they're not just collecting "call metadata."

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

csirac (574795) | about 10 months ago | (#44174197)

Metadata refers to side-channel data.

Don't make that assumption. As someone who works on data acquisition/management/processing (not telco) and gets trapped into hours-long discussions on data standards, especially derived data assets where the provenance/curation/modification history (not to mention the inputs, processing parameters, process versions/systems etc.) are just as important as the assets themselves... what is "meta" (or meta-meta, or...) and what isn't - is a huge area of ambiguity. The word "metadata" becomes utterly meaningless; I've been in meetings which informally ban it (lest we get lost into meta-meta-meta-meta-data - no exaggeration - and people lose their bearings, frame of reference and everybody gets confused about what "level" of meta-ness the conversation has collapsed into).

There is a good argument that the content of the call is only an incomplete record of the call. Without knowing the caller/callee/duration/date/time etc. we cannot put a voice recording into context and so the recording becomes useless and even perhaps unsearchable. If that's the case, then this "data" is of "first-order" importance and cannot be omitted by anyone - especially not the telcos who want generate any billing.

What is "meta" and what isn't, is all in the eye of the beholder. Meaningful documentation of protocols and information standards need to avoid assuming any common sense notion of the word.

I would be surprised if telcos consider "metadata" of a call to be far more boring than anybody cares about: technical stuff; SS7 attributes of the call, routing/exchanges/equipment involved, hand-overs between different mobile phone cells/towers, signal quality/encoding/protocol modes, measurements of bit error rate/latency/jitter/etc.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#44170731)

Nope. It's metadata only in very specific reference to phone calls.

Which would be the case here, right? Talking about phone calls and all?

When they say they're only collecting "metadata, not the calls themselves," they're being deliberately, disingenuously, misleading.

So by using the appropriate term for that industry, they're being misleading? Metadata of phone calls has huge privacy implications. I get it. In fact, I work in the intelligence community so I know quite a bit about this. And I don't condone or support warrantless wiretapping, violating 4th amendment rights, etc. But don't get bent out of shape because they're using the appropriate term for that industry.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#44170869)

"Which would be the case here, right? Talking about phone calls and all?"

RTFA. In the case here, the data included information on not only telephone calls, but SMS and data connections.

linky [slashdot.org]

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#44170935)

Oh boy. Same thing applies to them too. The data in text messages is the content, what was said. The "data" on data connections is what what downloaded and uploaded. Metadata is the date, time, location, etc. In the intel world, we call it internals and externals. Internals is what was said. Externals is everything else.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#44171075)

You're being disingenuous. What might be metadata about an SMS or data connection, isn't "we only collect metadata on your phone calls."

The tracking data provide by all of this stands alone - just be honest and admit it. The term "metadata" is not being used with the public in its formal sense, but to hide the fact that a vast amount of personal data is being collected with illegitimate warrants.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#44171161)

Calling it metadata isn't what's hiding a massive unconstitutional collection of personal information. It's not like the government has been forthcoming on everything except that it used one word you find misleading. It's the appropriate term in this context in this industry. Complaining that you use it slightly differently in your line of work won't change anything.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44171333)

It isn't 'unconstitutional' though. No matter how 'outraged' you are. The Supreme Court ruled on it in Smith v. Maryland, the Court extended the rule to a pen register, a device that collects all the numbers called from a particular phone. Without probable cause or a warrant, the police, who suspected Smith of a crime, installed a pen register on Smith’s calls at his telephone company. The Supreme Court held that this was not a “search” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, because people know that the phone company keeps records of their phone calls, “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over the third parties,” and Smith voluntarily “assumed the risk that the company would reveal to police the numbers he dialed.” It is on the basis of this line of decisions that commentators have correctly stated that, under existing law, the government’s program of collecting phone-call data from phone companies does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Re: This isn't metadata. It's just data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44171495)

Nope. It's metadata only in very specific reference to phone calls. In every other sense, it's data, pure and simple

Yes, generally speaking that's true for all metadata. It is, after all, just a general term for data about other data.

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 10 months ago | (#44170391)

Date/Time of phone calls and SMS is metadata (from that you can establish things like number of calls per day). The contents of the call audio or messages is the data. GPS location is more data than metadata, but the tower you're connected to is again metadata - which appears to be what this uses. Yes, metadata is also data. But how much of it is "metadata" according to the NSA?

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 10 months ago | (#44170509)

Can someone give a set definition of each, or is there no "metadata" at all? 'Cause I was under the impression that the bytes transmitting my usage of phone data (my voice when I'm calling, my text when I'm texting, the data for an app I'm downloading) was "data". "Metadata" then, would be which cellphone tower I was receiving the "data" from, the date and time stamp relating to that usage, the GPS location--all things that article was tracking and showing. All things appended to said the data. So, again what's the difference or is "metadata" just irrelevant in this case?

data is the lowest object (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 10 months ago | (#44170543)

data about data is metadata

A computer file content is data.
A file to contain it is metadata.
A file system to organize files is a another level of metadata.

Re:data is the lowest object (1)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 10 months ago | (#44170591)

Yeah that's kinda what I was thinking, thanks. msuave [slashdot.org] did a good number on clearing it up with regards to this story, too.

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 10 months ago | (#44170655)

Metadata: "the field 'originating_phone_number' contains the caller's number."

Data: 867-5309

"Jenny" is data. "Customer name" is metadata."

Let's get it right, folks. People's lives depend on this.

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

tsa (15680) | about 10 months ago | (#44173237)

Indeed. I'm surprised that Obama used that term. He should know better.

this is location data (1)

allo (1728082) | about 10 months ago | (#44173555)

metadata is: this data contains location information.
data is: he's X years old, just bought some bread and now waits for the bus at location Y

so you're not completely right, but its still no metadata.

Re:This isn't metadata. It's just data. (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 10 months ago | (#44177547)

True, however trying to correct the terminology at this point will just confuse the issue even more for the vast majority of people. It's better in this case to use their term for it and show how intrusive this "metadata" they are collecting is than trying to argue that their idea of metadata is wrong.

German Politicians (1)

rea1l1 (903073) | about 10 months ago | (#44170779)

I want people like this running our government.

We need realistic idealists to step up! If you are one, and you're capable of speaking to the public, please run for office!

Start small, go door to door, make it on the city council and work your way up!

The People need you!

OMG this is a TED talk already (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 10 months ago | (#44170863)

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44171567)

Who cares? If he's not planning to blow himself up in public he shouldn't be worried. If he is, then get thee to Syria or some other awful place where they think of that as civilized behavior.

Iorny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44172517)

Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms..

What cracks me up about that, it is okay to allow the patriot act which has dissolved your privacy rights, but the minute someone does it to a politician all the sudden they have a right to privacy and then decide to sue. Which gets me asking!! Can we file a mass lawsuit against the NSA, Internet providers, and big companies that knowingly and willingly allowed this collection of data to happen? (kind off a sarcastic question)

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