When the NSA’s bulk collection of every single American’s phone records was disclosed this past summer, defenders of the program argued it was not invasive surveillance because it’s only metadata (who you called, when, and for how long) and doesn’t include the identity of the callers or the content of the conversation. “There are no names, there’s no content in that database,” Obama said in June.
A new study at Stanford University has just ripped that argument to shreds.
Stanford computer scientists Jonathon Mayer and Patrick Mutchler found that it is “trivially” easy to determine the identity of callers if all you have is metadata.
More than a quarter of the 5,000 random phone numbers they attempted to match with names were matched through Facebook, Yelp, and Google Places alone.