Federal Government Mining Metadata


by Kirk Hawkins

CHARLOTTE, NC - A day in the life of Andy Henson: 100 emails, 100 text messages and at least 50 minutes on the phone. As the owner of four different businesses, he works around the clock and keeps his phone nearby. "My wife isn't very happy about that. But, it stays on at night...and [it rings] at night," said Henson.

Henson's phone might keep his wife up at night, but it could also be providing plenty of metadata for big brother. Email addresses and phone numbers. Clues that can point to sleep patterns, religions and even social status. Metadata is tucked away in your emails, phone calls, browser's web history and your camera phone. Every time you snap a photo you are recording the precise location where that photo was taken.

A group of British journalists learned about the power of metadata after releasing this photo of software mogul John McAfee last year. It revealed the date the picture was taken and the location of his secret hideout in Central America. He went into hiding following the murder of his neighbor.
"I just think that people need to be paying attention. They need to know what it is they are sending out to people and the files they create," said Data Security Lawyer Ted Claypoole.

"I don't have anything to hide," said Henson. Businesses have been protecting themselves from metadata for more than a decade. But now, as a new frontier is quickly approaching, Henson hopes he's ready for the next step. "Luckily I'm not doing anything wrong...so I don't have anything to worry about," said Henson.

Metadata filters are available online to download. There are also ways to disable GPS on camera phones.

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