What is metadata?

The term metadata has been popular in the news since whistleblower Edward Snowden released details about the NSA collection efforts, but what exactly does this term mean? Metadata is defined as: "data about data". This can take many forms depending on the context. Phone calls are a common example in the news where the NSA is collecting metadata. The audio conversation would be the primary data of the call. The metadata would involve external information about the call, examples would include: the time of the call, the dialed number, the duration, and where the call originated.

Metadata evidence

During the forensic examination, metadata is a very important part of the evidence. The metadata can identify information about when a document was created, the last time it was edited, and details about the author. Metadata can also be used to create a timeline of computer activity. In some legal cases this evidence can be the deciding factor in the outcome of the trial.