Metadata can be the key data

As the digital publishing team at Nexus know, the metadata on a file is more useful that the content when it comes to automation.   This article on metadata use discusses something that looks to be a paradox; at a meta level, the content of communication is much less useful than the information about when and with whom the communication was.

“… because it appears that what we actually say to each other really isn’t important. It’s who we are saying it to and when that matters. Communications metadata is not a poor proxy for content. It’s actually far more important than content.

Pentland makes the point that such knowledge offers real power, which is why privacy is so important. Understanding the interconnectivity of human relationships inevitably reveals the focal points of the network being studied. Those focal points can then be manipulated, through targeted advertising or other means, in order to influence the behaviour of the group.

Not many people realise this, which is why there’s no huge fuss when politicians or corporations tell their electorate or customers, “It’s OK, we’re not reading your emails or texts, or listening to your phone calls. We’re just collecting metadata: addresses, phone numbers, that sort of thing.”

A more honest, accurate statement would be, “It’s OK, all we’re doing is metadata analysis to build up a comprehensive model network of relationships so we can accurately pinpoint the social connections between individuals and understand exactly who is talking to whom, when and why. That tells us far more about you than the content of your phone calls, texts or emails. And, should we so desire, makes it easy to manipulate your behaviour.”

more here:

Sean Murphy

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