Guest post by David Haynes, author of Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval, 2nd edition: Understanding metadata and its use
Use of metadata by the security services
“Metadata tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata you don’t really need content” (Schneier 2015, p.23)
If anyone wondered about the importance of metadata, this quote by Stuart Baker of the US National Security Agency should leave no-one in any doubt. The Snowden revelations about the routine gathering of metadata about international telephone calls to or from the United States continues to have repercussions today (Greenwald 2013). Indeed Privacy International (2017) has identified the following types of metadata that is gathered or could be gathered by security agencies:
- Device used
- Length of call
“Metadata in aggregate is content” as Jacob Appelbaum observed when the Wikileaks controversy first blew up (Democracy Now 2013). In other words when metadata from different sources is aggregated it can be used to reconstruct the information content of individual communications.
Invasion of privacy or personal benefit?
These concerns extend well beyond the use of metadata by Governments and the security services. The social media giants prosper by exploiting personal data and targeting digital advertising. Personal profiles of targeted individuals are based on metadata about online use and are the basis of online behavioural advertising. Cookies and other tracking technologies can monitor the online activity of an individual to predict future behaviour. Metadata about online sessions reveals a great deal about an individual and his or her life. This may extend to gathering information about friends, family, colleagues and other contacts.
The upside of this is that metadata is a powerful tool to facilitate use of online services, by remembering users’ preferences and delivering content that is more likely to be of interest or relevance to them. This has to be balanced against the risks associated with online disclosure of personal data.
Metadata describes an information object whether that be raw data or more descriptive information about an individual. This is important because the treatment of metadata has become a political issue. Personal data, especially data that reveals opinions, attitudes and beliefs is potentially very sensitive. Use of this personal data by service providers or by third parties can expose users to risks such as nuisance from unwanted ads, harassment from internet trolls or fraud through identity theft, if the data is not held or transmitted security. Many digital advertisers would say that because the data is aggregated it is not possible to identify individuals – i.e. the data is anonymised. However this is no protection against privacy breaches as has been demonstrated by Narayanan and Shmatikov (2009) and others.
Daniel Rosenberg (2013) makes a nice distinction between data, facts and evidence. Data if true may be a fact, but if false ceases to be a fact. Samuel Arbesman (2012) in his book ‘The Half Life of Facts’ introduced the idea that in a given period half the certainties that we had are shown to be false or are superceded by new understandings and that they cease to be ‘facts’. Data, whether it is true or not, continues to be data, but is only factual if true. Perhaps there is some way of recording the reliability of information or data so that it can be exploited appropriately. Many of the arguments and counter-arguments on climate change for instance centre on the quality and veracity of the evidence used by each side of the debate. This idea is not new, as medical researchers have for some time evaluated the quality of research used to make clinical decisions. This information about the quality and reliability of data is metadata.
Metadata is political
Metadata has become a political issue because of its use by security agencies and because of wider privacy issues in the commercial world. Anyone who had asked the question ‘What does metadata matter?’ prior to 2013 will realise just how important a bearing it has on current political issues. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures’ (United States 1791). A lot hangs on the interpretation of privacy as Solove (2011) has so eloquently discussed in his book ‘Nothing to Hide’. ‘Fake news’ is not new, but the phenomenon has reared its head in recent elections and is unlikely to go away any time soon. Good governance also depends on a good understanding of metadata and accountability for past actions.
Metadata for information management and retrieval
In the new edition of Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval, published in January 2018 I consider the origins of metadata and look at the ways in which it is used for managing information resources. The ethical dimensions of metadata are explored and issues such as governance, privacy, security and human rights are considered. The book also discusses the digital divide and the potential that metadata has for making information accessible to wider audiences.
Metadata has an important role in politics and ethics. How then do we manage it to best effect?
Haynes, D (2018) Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval: understanding metadata and its use. ISBN 9781856048248. Facet Publishing. London, 2018, 267pp. http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=048248
You can follow David on Twitter @JDavidHaynes
Arbesman, S., 2012. The half-life of facts : why everything we know has an expiration date,
Democracy Now, 2013. Court: Gov’t Can Secretly Obtain Email, Twitter Info from Ex-WikiLeaks Volunteer Jacob Appelbaum. Available at: https://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/5/court_govt_can_secretly_obtain_email [Accessed March 21, 2017].
Greenwald, G., 2013. NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily. The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order [Accessed July 7, 2014].
Narayanan, A. & Shmatikov, V., 2009. De-anonymizing Social Networks. In 2009 30th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. IEEE, pp. 173–187.
Privacy International, 2017. Privacy 101. Metadata. Available at: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/53 [Accessed March 23, 2017].
Rosenberg, D., 2013. Data before the Fact. In L. Gitelman, ed. “Raw Data” is an Oxymoron. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 15–40.
Schneier, B., 2015. Data and Goliath: the hidden battles to collect your data and control your world, New York, NY: W.W.Norton.
Solove, D.J., 2011. Nothing to Hide: the false tradeoff between privacy and security, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
United States, 1791. U.S. Constitution Amendment IV, United States.
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Facet Publishing have announced the release of The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving, edited by Brianna H Marshall
Academics and the general public alike need help managing the digital information they create and save every day. But how can librarians and archivists translate their professional knowledge into practical skills that novices can apply to their own projects? The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving helps information professionals break down archival concepts and best practices into teachable solutions. Whether it’s an academic needing help preserving their scholarly records, a student developing their data literacy skills or someone backing up family photos and videos to protect against hard-drive failure, this book will show information professionals how to offer assistance.
Featuring contributions from experts working in a variety of contexts this practical resource will help librarians, digital curators and archivists empower people from all walks of life to take charge of their personal digital materials. Key coverage includes explanations of common terms in plain language, quick, non-technical solutions to the most frequent user requests and guidance on how to archive social media posts, digital photographs and web content.
Marshall said, “From the outset, my intention has been for this book to be used as a primer for information professionals who haven’t been quite sure how to approach personal digital archiving (PDA) yet. My hope is that they become not just informed but also excited to pass along critical skills that will help equip members of their communities to have a less painful and more fruitful PDA journey. I am convinced that sharing even simple principles for how to store, share, and preserve digital objects will benefit our users in both their personal and professional lives. The chapters are intentionally practitioner-focused so that after finishing this book, readers will feel ready to start conversations and make amazing things happen within their communities.”
Brianna H Marshall is director of research services at the University of California, Riverside. Previously, she was digital curation coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds master of library science and master of information science degrees from the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing.
Facet Publishing have announced the release of the seventh edition of Tim Buckley Owen’s Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time.
When people want to satisfy their immediate curiosity they’re much more likely to use a search engine on their mobile device than ask their librarian. But while the days of personal intervention in this kind of enquiry are inevitably numbered, the professional skills that underpin them are not. This book uses technology as the enabler of the thought processes that information professionals need to engage in when answering enquiries, and makes the case that new technology, far from making them irrelevant, raises the skill stakes for all.
Now in its seventh edition, the book is fully updated to cover new skills, such as employing critical thinking to manipulate, categorise and prioritise raw search results; using strategic reading and abstracting techniques to identify and summarise the essential information the enquirer needs from the retrieved documents; drawing on established story-telling practice to present research results effectively and working to the POWER model: plan, organise, write, edit, review.
Tim Buckley Owen said, “I’m delighted that generations of information professionals continue to find this book useful, amid the seismic changes that have taken place in library and information services since the first edition published in 1996. A lot of that must be because the book has never been technology-led. We now use the same tools as our users – so our job is to use those tools much more efficiently.”
Tim Buckley Owen BA DipLib MCLIP is an independent writer and trainer with over 40 years’ experience of information work – at Westminster Central Reference Library, the City Business Library, and as Principal Information Officer at the London Research Centre. He has also held strategic media and communications posts at CILIP, the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and the Library & Information Commission.
Find out more about the book here: http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=301935
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Facet Publishing have announced the publication of Managing Digital Cultural Objects: Analysis, discovery and retrieval edited by Allen Foster and Pauline Rafferty both at Aberystwyth University.
The book explores the analysis and interpretation, discovery and retrieval of a variety of non-textual objects, including image, music and moving image.
Bringing together chapters written by leading experts in the field, the first part of this book provides an overview of the theoretical and academic aspects of digital cultural documentation and considers both technical and strategic issues relating to cultural heritage projects, digital asset management and sustainability. The second part includes contributions from practitioners in the field focusing on case studies from libraries, archives and museums. While the third and final part considers social networking and digital cultural objects.
Managing Digital Cultural Objects: Analysis, discovery and retrieval draws from disciplines including information retrieval, library and information science (LIS), digital preservation, digital humanities, cultural theory, digital media studies and art history. It’s argued that this multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach is both necessary and useful in the age of the ubiquitous and mobile web.
Key topics covered include:
- Managing, searching and finding digital cultural objects
- Data modelling for analysis, discovery and retrieval
- Social media data as a historical source
- Visual digital humanities
- Digital preservation of audio content
- Photos on social networking sites
- Searching and creating affinities in web music collections
- Film retrieval on the web.
The book will provide inspiration for students seeking to develop creative and innovative research projects at Masters and PhD levels and will be essential reading for those studying digital cultural object management. Equally, it should serve practitioners in the field who wish to create and develop innovative, creative and exciting projects in the future.
About the editors:
Allen Foster has a BA in Social History, a Master’s in Information Management and a PhD in Information Science. As Reader in Information Science, he has held various roles, including Head of Department for Information Studies, at Aberystwyth University. His research interest areas span the research process of Master’s and
PhD students, the development of models for information behaviour and serendipity, and user experience of information systems, creativity and information retrieval. He has guest edited for several journal special issues, is a regional editor for The Electronic Library and is a member of journal editorial boards, international panels and conference committees.
Dr Pauline Rafferty MA(Hons) MSc MCLIP is a Senior Lecturer and Director of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University. She previously taught at the Department of Information Science, City University London, and in the School of Information Studies and Department of Media and Communication at the University of Central England, Birmingham.
Sarah Higgins, Aberystwyth University
Katrin Weller, GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences
Hannah Dee, Aberystwyth University
Lorna Hughes, University of Glasgow
Lloyd Roderick, Aberystwyth University
Alexander Brown, Aberystwyth University
Maureen Pennock, British Library
Michael Day, British Library
Will Prentice, British Library
Corinne Jörgensen, Florida State University (Emeritus)
Nicola Orio, University of Padua
Kathryn La Barre, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rosa Ines de Novias Cordeiro, Federal Fluminense University, Rio de Janeiro