This is a duplicate of a post I made in one of the recent topics. I'm copying it here for easier reference as I send it to a couple friends.
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So what exactly is metadata?
Many years ago I was a telecommunications engineer for a large company and worked CALEA. For the uninitiated, that is law-enforcement wiretapping.
My job was to make sure CALEA functioned properly on the new cellular network. We tested on an internal, micro-cell network that was isolated from the real world. The end result was to make sure targeted devices sent CDR (call data records, or metadata) and voice to the destination. This was all piped thru IPSec tunnels to the appropriate destination law-enforcement agency.
In the event of a tunnel failure, CDRs were required to buffer but voice was not. Saving voice during an outage required too much storage space, but the text nature of CDRs meant they were small and largely compressible.
Metadata consisted of EVERYTHING THAT WAS NOT VOICE.
To be clear, it included the following:
time of call
duration of call
keys pressed during call
cell tower registered to
other cell towers in range
imei (cell phone serial number)
and a few other bits of technical information.
Everything above "cell tower registered to" applies to traditional, POTS land line phones. This information seems to be what the disinformation campaign currently going on seems to revolve around. They never mention that there are over 327 MILLION cellular phones in the U.S., which is more than one per person. They never mention the bottom set of metadata.
Capturing all key presses makes sure things like call transfers, three-way calls and the like get captured.
It also grabs things like your voicemail PIN/password, which never seems to get explicitly mentioned.
But the cellular set is more interesting. This data come across in registration and keep-alive packets every few seconds. This is how the network knows you're still active and where to route calls to.
But by keeping all this metadata it allows whomever has it to plot of map of your phone's gross location and movements.
By "gross", I mean the location triangulated from cell tower strength and not GPS coordinates. Towers are triangular in nature and use panel antennas. They know which panel you connect thru and can triangulate your location down to a few meters just by the strength of your signal on a couple different towers.
GPS coordinates are "fine" location. For the most part the numbers sent across are either zeroed out or the last location your phone obtained a fix.
GPS isn't turned on all the time because it sucks batteries down. If you own a phone you know how long it can take to get a fix, so this feature isn't normally used.
HOWEVER, it can be turned on remotely and is a part of the E911 regulations pushed to help find incapacitated victims after 9/11.
[There is a reason the baseband radio chip in your phone has closed, binary-blob firmware -- whether or not the OS itself is FOSS. We wouldn't want the masses to be able to disable remote activation, would we? Or let them start changing frequencies and power levels.]
So, are we comfortable with the government knowing where we, thru our cell phones, are at every moment of the day? Because that is what metadata allows.
Think of what can be learned by applying modern pattern analysis to that data set.