Evaluating the privacy properties of telephone metadata

Jonathan Mayer, Patrick Mutchler, John C. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Since 2013, a stream of disclosures has prompted reconsideration of surveillance lawand policy. One of themost controversial principles, both in the United States and abroad, is that communications metadata receives substantially less protection than communications content. Several nations currently collect telephone metadata in bulk, including on their own citizens. In this paper, we attempt to shed light on the privacy properties of telephone metadata. Using a crowdsourcing methodology,we demonstrate that telephone metadata is densely interconnected, can trivially be reidentified, and can be used to draw sensitive inferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5536-5541
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 17 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Metadata
  • Privacy
  • Social network
  • Surveillance
  • Telephone


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