What Can You Find Out From Metadata?

cervesaebraciator writes “In the wake of recent revelations from Edward Snowden, apologists for the state security apparatus are predictably hitting the airwaves. Some are even ‘glad’ the NSA has been doing this. A major point they emphasize is that the content of calls have remained private and it is only the metadata that they’re interested in. But given how much one can tell from interpersonal connections, does the surveillance only represent a ‘modest encroachments on privacy?’ It is easy enough to imagine how metadata on phone calls made to and from a medical specialist could be more revealing than we’d like. But social network analysis can reveal far more. Duke sociologist Kieran Healy, in a light-hearted but telling article, shows how one father of the American Revolution could have been identified using the simplest tools of social network analysis and only a limited dataset.”

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