Metadata in the news


So, a little bit less political today. Ok, just a little calmer. Here are 3 really cool articles on where metadata shows up in the real world.

The first is about how pirates use metadata to accurately show their downloaders the facts about whatever they’re downloading (and explaining why legit movie retailers could learn something about product information from said pirates). It is nice to see a comparison of the quality legally and illegally obtained movies simply because this kind of discussion does not happen in mainstream media. I would like to point out that I abstain from pirating movies and music because, though I think the current life + 70 years term of copyright is unreasonable it is the law and I need the moral high ground to argue for the reduction of copyright to some more reasonable period.

The second link is to a NYT article on the deeper aspects of the allegations that the NSA holds vast databases full of metadata about private US citizens. This is interesting in the first place because I don’t like the idea of the NSA going for datamining expeditions nor do I like them having huge databases about US citizens just in a general way. In the second place, it is suggested that this data mining program was the program which the current Attorney General and previous White House Counsel asked John Ashcroft (then Attorney General) to continue when he was in the hospital. Attorney General Gonzales has testified under oath that there was never any major controversy in the DOJ over the wiretapping and that the discussion with then Attorney General Ashcroft was about other security matters, potentially this data mining operation. As The Economist says “And perhaps Mr Gonzales is merely a weasel and not a perjurer” (this week’s ed).

This final story does not actually mention metadata it mentions how aid agencies are using online databases of people’s names and locations to allow families separated by disasters to find each other. This is an incredible article talking about the shifting relationship between donor and victim and how technology allows people in aid-needing countries to ask for the aid they need. A few cool quotes:

“Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF), a French voluntary agency (total staff: a dozen), goes in with the UN team that does the first needs-assessment in the hours after disaster strikes.”

“The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, a group of agencies bent on learning from past mistakes, notes that “local people themselves provided almost all immediate life-saving action and the early-emergency support, as is commonly the case in disasters.””

“Family remittances are already a bigger source of transfers to poor countries than government aid.”

I wonder if TSF wants an intern? Just kidding, I need college. But seriously, I think it’s amazing that the same technology which can be used to track digitized books and DVDs can be used to track everyone from innocent civilians to innocent victims of disasters. It’s all in how that metadata is used. But wouldn’t it rock to program for the UN? On that note, here’s my goodnight quote:

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the love of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” Robert Southey

1 Comment

Get in touch

%d bloggers like this: