So… Metadata. Anne Gilliland explains that metadata is, “data about data”, and thus is all the available information about information objects. That probably doesn’t really help explain anything at all. The thing is, though, that metadata doesn’t seem to quite have a set definition, as there are so many different components, types, and aspects of it. But Gilliland breaks metadata down and explains it as having three components: the content, context, and structure of the information object in question.
A prominent example of metadata in today’s culture include libraries, museums, and archives that use metadata to provide access to their materials, as well as the context those materials are in to provide a value to their information. Libraries, museums, and archives thus use metadata as a means of cataloguing their information objects so that other people can use it to their own knowledgeable purposes. More specifically, metadata can provide a means of description and resource discovery, not only in libraries, museums, and archives, but in just about anything.
As I said before, there are several different kinds of metadata, in which they are categorized by their purpose and function. However, all of the different kids of metadata are unified under a certain set of aspirations and thus functions, that Gilliland states as being: “creation, multiversioning, reuse, and recontextualization of information objects; organization and description; validation; searching and retrieval; utilization and preservation; and disposition,” of all information. Metadata is meant to attain and accumulate knowledge over time, thus expanding our information about all things informative.
However, metadata can be used for more than just contextual and descriptive information. It can be used to identify individual patterns through the information provided, thus supplying a means of infringing on privacy. In Robert Lee Hotz’s Wall Street Journal article, he states that metadata can look at a variety of patterns and identify them with individuals, based on their unique patterns. He gives the example of looking at shoppers’ patterns and how data analysts were able to identify who the shoppers were based on what they bought and looked at, as well as how much time they spent shopping.
So I guess the real question that is elicited from the concept of metadata is, how much information is too much, when it provides the means for invading our privacy?