It’s #privacyweek in The Netherlands, and a major argument to ask people to switch from Whatsapp to Signal has to do with metadata: with whom you have contact, when, where. But not the content of your email, chat or conversation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation lists some great examples of what metadata can do:
- They know you rang a phone sex line at 2:24 am and spoke for 18 minutes. But they don’t know what you talked about.
- They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret.
- They know you got an email from an HIV testing service, then called your doctor, then visited an HIV support group website in the same hour. But they don’t know what was in the email or what you talked about on the phone.
- They know you received an email from a digital rights activist group with the subject line “52 hours left to stop SOPA” and then called your elected representative immediately after. But the content of those communications remains safe from government intrusion.
- They know you called a gynecologist, spoke for a half hour, and then searched online for the local abortion clinic’s number later that day. But nobody knows what you spoke about.