The “Yo” App Demonstrates How Metadata Is Private Data
An app that sends “Yo!” to your friends. That’s all it does. Hacked up in eight hours, in the top-five apps, valued at 10 million dollars. What’s interesting is that it totally shreds the spy agencies’ “it’s just metadata” argument.
Spy agencies like the United States’ NSA and the British GCHQ recently invented the concept of “metadata” in communications for legal purposes. Specifically, they invented it in order to legally wiretap ordinary people’s phone calls and conversations. Legally according to them, anyway.
If you look closer at this behavior, you can find one defensive line being parroted over and over and over again: “we don’t wiretap any of the conversation, just the metadata”. Metadata is everything but the conversation: who’s talking to whom, when, from where, and in what manner. (It turns out that the spy agencies were recording all the conversations too, but let’s disregard that for a minute for the sake of this argument.)
In this way, the spy agencies managed to stall criminal prosecution for their actions for… well, so far, actually. But the “Yo” app shines a brutal spotlight on just how hollow and nonsensical the “it’s just metadata” argument is.
With “Yo”, there is no conversation. Everything it sends is “Yo”. Nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, any communication using this app is literally all metadata, and yet, is obviously part of a private correspondence of some sort.
Before, these arguments have been rather convoluted, trying to protest that it was a private matter whom you spoke to, and the spy agencies would try to convolute it in layers of legal shrouds, ethical or not.
But the Yo app ends that.
Metadata is not just part of the conversation. With Yo, it is the conversation. Therefore, the initial justification from the spy agencies and the legal invention of “metadata”, as opposed to the protected correspondence, doesn’t hold a centiliter of water.