Protecting the Data About Data

14. January 2022

Imagine if someone asks you to pass him/her a file. The first questions you ask would probably be: what’s the title? Who’s the author? What’s it about? In which category can I find it? Without such information, it’s impossible to identify which document the other person refers to.  

The same goes for data. To categorize and search for specific data effectively, there should be data that describes the data, which is defined as metadata. 

What is Metadata?

Metadata is defined as “data about data”, and it applies to both physical and digital objects. To be more specific, it should be “structured, organized information about an object such as its source, scope, physical or digital characteristics, context, or any other details about the object itself”.  

There are three types of metadata: descriptive, structural, and administrative. Descriptive metadata is used to discover, identify, and select resources. Title, subject, creator, location, and data can be categorized as descriptive metadata. Structural metadata deals with how an object should be categorized in the context of a more extensive system involving other objects, for example -file size and file format. Administrative metadata is used for data management. Technical, preservation, rights, and use can be elements of administrative metadata

Functionalities of Metadata

Metadata facilitates data management. It “provides users with a standardized means for intellectual access to holdings.

Metadata makes finding data looked for via search engines or other processes easier. If metadata is incorrect or poorly managed, the data itself will be very difficult to find. Metadata also helps the data owner acquire and track necessary information about the data, making it easier to use.

Why Is Metadata Important in the Context of Data Protection

Aside from data management, metadata can also be used to identify an individual. For example, even if the surveillance video in a factory is anonymized, someone can still use metadata to identify the worker in the video according to the schedule. Metadata can also reveal sensitive personal information, such as one’s geographic location when he/she visits a website, the time, date, and duration of a call, etc… It is possible to detect an individual’s social relationship, daily routine, and activities based on such information.

These risks of being used to identify an individual make metadata subject to the GDPR. Therefore, it is no longer enough to only protect the content during the data protection process. The data that describes it should also be anonymized or deleted completely, according to the GDPR. 

brighter AI’s anonymization solution is the world’s most advanced automatic redaction software for images and videos. Our mission is to protect every identity in public, which also involves metadata. Being GDPR-compliant, we anonymize the content of the data to prevent individuals from recognition and ensure no metadata can be referred back to an individual. If you’d like to learn more about our anonymization solution, check out the case studies below, or contact us here.

Xinzhuo Xiao
Marketing & Communication
xinzhuo.xiao@brighter.ai