What your metadata really says about you...

Ever since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, we've heard politicians and agency officials claim that collecting metadata isn't spying. But, two MIT students have created a program to help you understand the digital trail that you leave behind everyday. Daniel Smilkov and Deepak Jagdish's “Immersion” program creates a virtual map of your life using only your email account. If you give the researchers access to the same metadata that the NSA admits to collecting – the time, date, and “To” and “CC” fields of your email – they can give you back detailed charts and graphs about your life.

Using just this data, the program can identify things like your former loves, your changing personal and professional networks, and even deaths and transitions that you've experienced during your life. Agency officials have tried to claim that metadata is simply IP and phone numbers, but this “Immersion” program clearly shows that those claims couldn't be further from the truth.

There's simply no question that collecting metadata and tracking our digital lives is a major violation of our privacy. The fact is that the government doesn't need to listen to our calls, or read the content of our emails, to get a clear picture of our daily lives. The National Security Agency needs to recognize that our phone and internet metadata is private, and if they want to collect it, it's time that they get a warrant.

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