Is Metadata ‘Spying’ On End Users?
This Computerworld article covers an interesting take on metadata from representatives of Australia’s Pirate Party which isn’t one that is familiar to members of the DAM community where we’re all encouraged to view metadata as being a wholly positive concept that is essential for finding assets. In this case, the dispute is whether or not law enforcement agencies should be able to store metadata about a call they have recorded, for example who made or received it:
“Pirate Party Australia is critical of law enforcement agencies accessing not just the content of communication, but also accessing ‘metadata’….”While this may seem harmless, knowing who is communicating with who can be just as revealing as the actual contents,” Brendan Molloy, secretary of Pirate Party Australia, said in a statement….”By storing who you are communicating with, profiles can be built of individuals and communities. This is not reasonable surveillance, this is spying on innocent people.”. Molloy likened the retaining metadata to a “massive tracking scheme”.”We are constantly sending data through Facebook, emails, text messages, and so on. There are obvious implications about storing where we were and when,” he said.” [Read More]
This presents some intriguing issues in relation to metadata that many have not yet considered – whether the ‘owner’ of the asset really wants it to be found too easily and directly attributed to them. As we have noted a few times on DAM News, law enforcement agencies were one of the earlier adopters of DAM technology and innovations in that market segment often get transformed into commodity components that are included in corporate and personal DAM products (facial recognition being one example). Therefore, it comes as no major shock that some of the uses you can put metadata people have intentionally or accidentally left embedded within assets to are surveillance oriented.
Many in the photo industry are keen for social media web properties like Facebook and Google to preserve embedded metadata rather than strip it out, however, there are a number of people who encourage end users to do the opposite.
I suppose there is more of a distinction based on the intent of the owner of the assets as to how any metadata stored with their essence (the file) is treated. For example, photographers who plan to licence their works to others have selected the specific metadata such as copyright and keywords etc they want to remain with their images and might even regard it as being an integral element of their asset. Someone who takes a random snap of their friends with a smartphone on a night out, however, may not have any intention to disseminate metadata that includes the GPRS coordinates of where they were and at what time.
In the case of the article referred to, it is debatable who owns the copyright to the call that is being recorded, is it the phone company or the person whose voice is being recorded and if the latter, can they assert their Intellectual Property rights – including any moral rights also?
As both DAM and WCM systems begin to utilise embedded metadata in digital assets more widely, it does appear that some political issues and disputes may result which end users might not have fully bargained for.Share this Article: