Not-So-Private Metadata

Friday, March 21, 2014


The NSA has defended its controversial surveillance program by arguing that it just collects metadata, and therefore doesn't violate the privacy of individual Americans. But computer scientists at Stanford Security Lab have conducted their own simulation of the NSA's program, and found the metadata to be inherently revealing. Bob speaks with Jonathan Mayer, one of the researchers on the project, about how much can be learned just from the numbers.


Jonathan Mayer

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [2]

Rebecca Griffin from Oakland, CA

This was a stark demonstration of how disingenuous the NSA is when they say metadata isn't that revealing. If Target can figure out when people are pregnant, surely the NSA can piece together a lot of information about our comings and goings, as this piece clearly demonstrates. Thanks for the info, I included it in my recommended roundup:

Mar. 30 2014 02:06 PM
Adreana Langston from Long Beach, CA

Well, if the analysis of the meta data in the story in any way mimics the analysis the NSA does I am more fearful of mistaken inferences than anything else. Years ago I was deciding whether or not I wanted to have children. I called my mother and she and I had a long conversation in which she made me promise to forgo getting surgically sterilized until I reached age 32. So I called Planned Parenthood a few times asking about various long term birth control methods. I ended up finding a Planned Parenthood that installed Norplant. I made an appointment and I got Norplant. My series of phone telephone calls, long conversation with close relative, calls to Planned Parenthood one week, calls to Planned Parenthood for a second week, then a call from Planned Parenthood a couple of weeks later, closely mimic the series of calls that lead Mr. Mayer's team to conclude that metadata indicated a certain woman was terminating a pregnancy. I am really glad I heard this story. It illustrated for me how the NSA analyzers could jump to ridiculous suspicions by analyzing just the metadata. Maybe it would be better if they did just listen to the entire conversation.

Mar. 25 2014 06:49 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.