So, yesterday, on Data Privacy Day, I was in line at a small lunch place that had their TV screen tuned to a news channel. My son — who is a “tween," as they say — noticed something on the screen and urged me to tune in. There was Ralph Goodale talking about metadata, the privacy of Canadians, and information sharing with other countries. My son knows what I do for a living and asked me what was going on.
Admittedly, with the day I had, there was little time to look into the issue in depth. Have you figured it out? All I know is that Canada was sharing metadata with other friendly countries but has vowed to stop the practice (see our lead article below). What became obvious during the press conference was that the Minister really liked to throw around the term metadata. Of course, my boys asked me what that was because the news was not providing any clear definition.
This prompted me to think about the term metadata and whether or not anyone out there knows what that really means. Do you? And, if you do, is your definition of metadata the same as the person's next to you? The same as the government’s definition?
This is part of the problem with a new field like privacy. People use terms, concepts, and definitions that don’t necessarily translate across the entire industry. I mean, the person telling the Minister to continuously refer to metadata didn’t have the same definition for that term as me. For me, metadata almost always refers to snippets of information that are ultimately about individuals (here’s how we define it in our glossary). That, for me, makes it personal information — but it was not clear that the government took the same position.
The entire issue made for great conversation at our Privacy After Hours in Ottawa. I met more than 60 privacy pros on Data Privacy Day where, along with the topic of metadata, we spoke about a myriad of issues facing the privacy profession in the years to come. It was, as always, an enlightening conversation. I hope you had the same opportunity as me wherever you live, since these events were not only happening across Canada, but around the world. Pretty cool, really.
And, if you have thoughts on the metadata story and feel inclined, drop me a note. I’d like to hear your views.
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