Metadata

Definition of Sensitive metadata

Metadata is the data that provides information about other data. The ‘data about data’.

Some examples of metadata are:

  • Information about how the data was created

  • Purpose of the data

  • Times and dates of creation

  • Information about the author of the data

  • Location on a computer network where the data was created

  • Standards used

  • File size

  • Data quality

  • Source of the data

  • Process used to create the data

These are sometimes categorised into different types of metadata such as:

  • Descriptive metadata: information such as the titles and authors of the data.

  • Structural metadata: Descriptions of types or versions of the data.

  • Legal metadata: Information about copyright and licenses that is on the data.

  • And many more….

More detailed information about different types of metadata can be found in the Wikipedia metadata page.

Metadata can be sensitive if it can personally identify someone, for example the person the data is collected about or the person collecting the data. Other sensitive metadata may be information that could lead to identification of where and when the data was collected. This could include geo-location information that is linked to the data.

There are occasions when metadata is being captured automatically. For example, in digital photos the camera captures information, including exposure information and descriptive information about the photo location. Therefore, data owners, collectors and users need to be aware of what metadata is being captured with the data to make sure that they treat any sensitive metadata in line with legal and ethical restrictions.

Examples of projects with sensitive metadata