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Freedom, Liberty and The Dangers of Metadata


Living in the age of digital content, we might be forgiven for thinking it’s as important to spy agencies as it is to the likes of Facebook. But apparently not.





How much information do you think is needed to launch a drone missile attack in the North West Province of Pakistan? Or order a raid on a drab terrace in a former Northern English industrial town?



Not much.


According to General Michael Hayden, former NSA and CIA director, all it takes is the metadata.




Not even content.

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NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said that “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.”


General Hayden, in a debate at Johns Hopkins University, went onto explain that, “We kill people based on metadata.”


What does metadata teach us?


The metadata, of a phone call, for example, will show the device, network, duration of call, nearest cell towers to either the caller or receiver, or both, but nothing else. Not the content.Not what was actually said. And yet that can be enough. Our intelligence agencies can find out the rest, or make an intelligent analysis based on the factors surrounding the individuals and their actions, or results of previous conversations. Sometimes they call things right, others times they don’t - but either way, those are all issues for a separate debate.


What’s interesting here is exactly how important, I would expect, it is safe to say, under certain circumstances, metadata can be. Even to the point of life or death.

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How secure is your metadata?


Criminal cyber gangs may not be as sophisticated as the NSA, but there’s no denying that some of them have some serious skills and technology at their disposal. Imagine then, what a sophisticated cyber criminal could do with your own unencrypted metadata?


This isn’t a life or death matter. But it is one of personal and professional security.


Especially when it comes to businesses. Those who handle sensitive documents, like hospitals, lawyers, medical research facilities, universities, need absolute confidence in how they store documents. Even retailers need a certain level of security, to avoid their customers information falling into the hands of criminals.


When it comes to your customers data you can never be too careful. The stakes may not be as high as life or death, but a loss of sensitive personal information is a pretty big breach of trust, as far as customers are concerned. Taking steps to secure your data and documents could be the smartest way you safeguard the life of your business. 

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