A Self Portrait Made From Metadata

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A map of your email metadata might reveal more than you think.
A map of your email metadata might reveal more than you think.

Since Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents revealing that the U.S. government has been collecting enormous sets of email and telephone records from everyday Americans, the word metadata has gone from unfamiliar to electric.

Metadata is essentially data about data; for example, who you call or email, and when — not what you're actually saying. And officials have made attempts to calm people's fears about surveillance by saying that the NSA is only collecting metadata, not content.

But it turns out metadata is extremely informative. It reveals a lot about who you are, who you know, and what you do. César Hidalgo, a professor at MIT's Media Lab, has been examining metadata for almost a decade, and he's recently launched an online tool to help people visualize their own email metadata, and then, take control of it. It's called Immersion.


César Hidalgo, professor of Media Arts and Sciences and head of the Macro Connections group at the MIT Media Lab.

This segment aired on July 8, 2013.


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