Dahlia Lithwick and Me on Why Metadata Matters

I suspect we’ll have a lot more to say about today’s oral argument in New York in the ACLU’s challenge to the government’s “telephony metadata” program. But while we digest today’s developments, I thought I’d flag an essay that Dahlia Lithwick and I co-wrote for Slate. Titled “Taking the ‘Meh’ out of Metadata,” the piece explores, and attempts to push back against, the view that government collection of metadata is not nearly as intrusive (or, hence, alarming) as content-based communications surveillance. To that end, the piece offers examples of various things the government could learn if it were in a position to aggregate our metadata. As we conclude,

We may not get as excited about the government’s sweeping collection of our metadata as we have been over eavesdropping, subway searches, or stop-and-frisk policies, but that may only be because we don’t fully appreciate just how invasive and intrusive these separate data streams can become, once someone is in a position to put them all together.


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About the Author(s)

Steve Vladeck

Executive Editor of Just Security and Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law. Follow him on Twitter (@steve_vladeck).