Browse Definitions:
Definition

surveillance metadata

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Surveillance metadata is details about data pertaining to the actions of an observed party.

Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make categorizing, finding and working with particular instances of data easier. In the case of surveillance – especially on the part of government agencies -- metadata not only facilitates categorizing and retrieving content but provides information on its own and may also be used to legitimize collecting and examining content.

Surveillance metadata is usually associated with electronic communication channels, such as phone, email and social media. Data is collected through wiretapping and other electronic surveillance methods, including government Trojans, wiretap Trojans and keyloggers.

Typically, surveillance metadata is gathered by government or law enforcement pertaining to a particular suspect or person of interest. Metadata related to a phone call, for example, includes the date, time, call duration, calling / contacted party and, in the case of mobile phones, location. The conversation itself is not metadata but content, as is, for example, an email message.

The point that collectors of surveillance metadata, such as the National Security Agency (NSA), emphasize to justify continued monitoring is that they record only metadata and not content. However, metadata has been shown to be quite revealing. Furthermore, according to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA sometimes collects content as well as metadata, and the agency has access to all email content.

Metadata has become a household word since Snowden, a former NSA employee, reported that the agency’s PRISM program was monitoring United States citizens. Snowden revealed that the NSA collects metadata from many communication sources including:

  • All credit card transactions.
  • Phone records from all major providers.
  • Facebook data.
  • App data and GPS locations from cell phones.

Snowden also reported that the NSA enlisted the cooperation of numerous trusted businesses, creating a ubiquitous surveillance network and, in doing so, subverted the privacy rights of individuals.

This was last updated in August 2014

Continue Reading About surveillance metadata

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board)

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is a Congressionally-established nonprofit that assesses audits of public ...

  • cyborg anthropologist

    A cyborg anthropologist is an individual who studies the interaction between humans and technology, observing how technology can ...

  • RegTech

    RegTech, or regulatory technology, is a term used to describe technology that is used to help streamline the process of ...

SearchSecurity

  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

    The Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES, is a symmetric block cipher used by the U.S. government to protect classified ...

  • identity theft

    Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of personally identifiable ...

  • spear phishing

    Spear phishing is an email-spoofing attack that targets a specific organization or individual, seeking unauthorized access to ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

  • mass notification system (MNS)

    A mass notification system is a platform that sends one-way messages to inform employees and the public of an emergency.

  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

    One approach to a strong disaster recovery plan is DRaaS, where companies offload data replication and restoration ...

SearchStorage

  • CIFS (Common Internet File System)

    CIFS (Common Internet File System) is a protocol that gained popularity around the year 2000, as vendors worked to establish an ...

  • GlusterFS (Gluster File System)

    GlusterFS (Gluster File System) is an open source distributed file system that can scale out in building-block fashion to store ...

  • virtual memory

    Virtual memory is a memory management capability of an OS that allows a computer to compensate for physical memory shortages by ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • Tier 0

    Tier 0 (tier zero) is a level of data storage that is faster, and perhaps more expensive, than any other level in the storage ...

  • PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive)

    A PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive) is a high-speed expansion card that attaches a computer to its peripherals.

  • SSD caching

    SSD caching, also known as flash caching, is the temporary storage of data on NAND flash memory chips in a solid-state drive so ...

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close