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Why Metadata Matters
Posted at 7:45 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2013
Revelations that the National Security Agency collects “metadata” on millions of Americans’ telephone call records — including the calling and receiving numbers and time and duration of the call, but not the content — have been greeted by the public with a collective yawn. Dahlia Lithwick and Steve Vladeck argue that it’s time for people to start caring.
“By analyzing our metadata over time, the government can separate the signal from the noise and use it to identify behavioral patterns… And by analyzing the metadata of every American across a span of years, the NSA could learn almost as much about our health, our habits, our politics, and our relationships as it could by eavesdropping on our calls.”
“We may not get as excited about the government’s sweeping collection of our metadata as we have been over eavesdropping, subway searches, or stop-and-frisk policies, but that may only be because we don’t fully appreciate just how invasive and intrusive these separate data streams can become, once someone is in a position to put them all together.”