Wondering exactly what the “metadata” that we learned the NSA is scooping up from all of our digital communications really is? The Guardian, which is responsible for the past week’s worth of blockbuster stories that threaten to drive digital privacy rights to the center of public debate, gives you the chance to see exactly the kinds of details you generate in an average day via the use of common applications and technologies.
Emails show the sender’s name, email and IP address, the recipient’s name and email address, and the subject and status of the message. Phones list the number of every caller; the time and duration of the call and the location of each party. Google searches reveal search queries, results and pages clicked on.
For more details on metadata, click here. Join The Guardian’s data editor James Ball for a Q-and-A session about NSA data collection practices from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST on Thursday here.
Metadata is information generated as you use technology, and its use has been the subject of controversy since NSA’s secret surveillance program was revealed. Examples include the date and time you called somebody or the location from which you last accessed your email. The data collected generally does not contain personal or content-specific details, but rather transactional information about the user, the device and activities taking place. In some cases you can limit the information that is collected – by turning off location services on your cell phone for instance – but many times you cannot. Below, explore some of the data collected through activities you do every day.