Computer Science News Archive

Computer Science in the media: Steven Murdoch comments on telephone metadata

A new paper out this week looks into exactly what the act of making a phone call can reveal. The study, which was led by Patrick Mutchler and Jonathan Mayer at Stanford University, is the culmination of work that started in 2013 looking into what metadata really can show.

The study involved collecting metadata volunteered by 823 participants, in total, more than 250,000 calls, and 1 million text messages. Steven Murdoch, Principal Research Fellow at UCL's Information Security Research Group, has been featured on the BBC and in The Telegraph, commenting on its legality. "This paper confirms what security researchers have known for a long time, which is that even the most innocuous-looking data can be extremely sensitive. Yet it isn’t protected by a court. Metadata is not sensitive so it doesn’t deserve protection of the court system".

However, the study demonstrates how easy it is to deduce individuals’ names, addresses and the names and numbers of partners – just from knowing whom they had called and texted. Even more surprisingly, they identified specific individuals who suffered from cardiac disease and multiple sclerosis, one who was likely pregnant, and another who owned an AR semiautomatic rifle.

Steven's Radio 4 segment is here (starts at 14:55) and on The World Service here (starts at 14:35)

Steven's comments in The Telegraph are here



Posted 24 May 16 08:29