Just because this or that freedom might not have meaning to you today doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or wont won’t have meaning tomorrow, to you, or to your neighbour- or to crowds protesting halfway across the planet, hoping to gain just a fraction of the freedoms that my country was busily dismantling…’
The most direct way of thinking about metadata, however is as “activity data”, all the records of all the things you do on your devices and all the things your devices do on their own. Take a phone call, its metadata might include the date and time of the call, the call’s duration, the number from which the call was made, the number being called, and their locations.
An email’s metadata might include information about what type of computer it was generated on, where and when, who the computer belonged to, who sent the email, who received it, where and when it was sent and received, and who if anyone besides the sender and recipient accessed it, and where and when. Metadata can tell your surveillant the address you slept at last night and what time you got up this morning. It reveals every place you visited during your day and how long you spent there.
Your devices are constantly communicating for you whether you want them to or not. And unlike the humans you communicate with of your own volition, your devices won’t withhold private information or use code words in an attempt to be discreet.
They merely ping the nearest cell phone towers with signals that never lie.
In sum, metadata can tell your surveillant virtually everything they’d ever want or need to know about you, except what’s actually going on inside your head.
I felt far from home, but monitored. I felt more adult than ever, but also cursed with the knowledge that all of us had been reduced to something like children, who’d forced to live the rest of our lives under omniscient parental supervision.
I felt like a fool, as someone of supposedly serious technical skills who’d somehow helped to build an essential component of this system without realizing its purpose.
I felt used, as an employee of the Intelligence Community who only now realising that all along I’d been protecting not my country, but the state. I felt, all above, violated. Being in Japan only accentuated the sense of betrayal…’