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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide to implementing digital asset management systems and strategies
Definition

metadata

Metadata is data that describes other data. Meta is a prefix that in most information technology usages means "an underlying definition or description."

Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier. For example, author, date created and date modified and file size are examples of very basic document metadata.  Having the abilty to filter through that metadata makes it much easier for someone to locate a specific document. 

In addition to document files, metadata is used for images, videos, spreadsheets and web pages. The use of metadata on web pages can be very important. Metadata for web pages contain descriptions of the page’s contents, as well as keywords linked to the content. These are usually expressed in the form of metatags. The metadata containing the web page’s description and summary is often displayed in search results by search engines, making its accuracy and details very important since it can determine whether a user decides to visit the site or not. Metatags are often evaluated by search engines to help decide a web page’s relevance, and were used as the key factor in determining position in a search until the late 1990s. The increase in search engine optimization (SEO) towards the end of the 1990s led to many websites “keyword stuffing” their metadata to trick search engines, making their websites seem more relevant than others. Since then search engines have reduced their reliance on metatags, though they are still factored in when indexing pages. Many search engines also try to halt web pages’ ability to thwart their system by regularly changing their criteria for rankings, with Google being notorious for frequently changing their highly-undisclosed ranking algorithms.

Metadata can be created manually, or by automated information processing. Manual creation tends to be more accurate, allowing the user to input any information they feel is relevant or needed to help describe the file. Automated metadata creation can be much more elementary, usually only displaying information such as file size, file extension, when the file was created and who created the file.

 

This was last updated in July 2014

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Thanks, very helpful :)
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Thanks!
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My feeling towards digital privacy before this activity was nothing, I did not care for it, It did not cross my mind, once. It didn't matter to me, it never did, it never will, it never made me happy, was is it important to me? Who knows, I don't.
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All electronic communications leave footprints. Some are larger and easier to follow. Some are obscured by web filters and proxy servers. Either way, what is left behind tells us something about the person that created them. From that metadata, we might conduct further investigations to learn more about the people involved:

Are they hiding something by using a VPN?
Are they really from a legitimate business with a legitimate web presence? 
Is this someone I really want to go on a date with, etc? 
What can ordinary people learn about me, let alone the NSA?
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you spelt ability wrong. Not happy :/
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Please update this article to include what metadata can be incorporated into a file, or file system. For example can a checksum be incorporated, so that a file can be compared to a known checksum without re-calculating the checksum?
Much confusion exists about what metadata is included in a specific file type, eg .exe or .dll or .doc versus stored in the file system tables like in the NTSF file system for example.
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