to an article in The Guardian, US phone communications giant Verizon was
ordered to provide the National Security Agency 'metadata' on all calls
going through its network, within the United States and with other
countries. The collected 'metadata' does not contain actual
conversations, but it still provides a lot of information that can be
used in various ways.
The term "metadata" is composed of two words - Greek 'meta' meaning
'behind' and Latin 'data' meaning facts or details. So metadata refers
to the 'data behind data'. In this particular instance it refers to the
data embedded in the phone signal.
Metadata contains phone numbers, area codes, GPS data and time and
duration of calls. It may also identify phone models and other technical
Once in the possession of the NSA the data can be stored in data
warehouses - huge memory banks, where it can be analyzed and
cross-referenced by sophisticated software which can decipher usage
The professional term is 'targeted data mining'. However, there is no
evidence that collecting and analyzing it are effective tools.
an interview with VOA, Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and
National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, says the
NSA is collecting much more data than it needs.
"There's simply no way that those [data] are all relevant or necessary
to an authorized investigation. So its' too broad," Goitein said.
She added that If the government wants to know who the suspected or
known terrorist is communicating with, it can do that by getting the
telephone records of the individuals it wants to investigate.
Without confirming the story, a senior Obama administration official on
background defended the practice as part of the provisions of the
Patriot Act, the law passed by Congress after the 2001 terrorist attacks
on the U.S.