Study Shows ‘Metadata is Highly Sensitive’

The term metadata and the implications of its collection and analysis have been one of the key points in the debate surrounding the NSA’s broad surveillance programs over the last year. Legislators, policy makers and others continue to argue about whether metadata can actually reveal anything about the people behind the phone numbers, but researchers who have studied a new data set say there should be no doubt: metadata is sensitive information.

Researchers at Stanford University’s Security Lab and Society last fall spun up a new program called MetaPhone designed to gather metadata from volunteers’ Android phones and then analyze the data to see what conclusions they could draw. The project’s 546 participants called more than 33,000 unique numbers during the study period, and the Stanford researchers were able to infer highly sensitive information about some of the volunteers, including serious medical conditions, gun ownership and other data.

“At the outset of this study, we shared the same hypothesis as our computer science colleagues—we thought phone metadata could be very sensitive. We did not anticipate finding much evidence one way or the other, however, since the MetaPhone participant population is small and participants only provide a few months of phone activity on average,” Jonathan Mayer of Stanford wrote in a post revealing some of the results of the MetaPhone project.

via Study Shows ‘Metadata is Highly Sensitive’ | Threatpost | The first stop for security news.

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