Metadata: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Metadata: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Metadata will often give you away if you don’t consider it as you try to be as private and anonymous as possible online. You can consider metadata as the data of data.

For example, if an iOS version is a data, then its metadata would be the release date, features, bug fixes, and bugs present. When data is requested, it usually comes with some details such as the time the request was made and the IP address that requested it. Since it’s so useful, we will answer the question “what is metadata” and discuss everything you need to know about it.

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  1. What Is Metadata?
  2. Types of Metadata
  3. How to Deal with Metadata
  4. Uses of Metadata

What Is Metadata?

Metadata is an important part of database management as well as website management. It is the data that describes a document, web page, or file. You can also think of metadata as a concise report of what the data is generally.

The metadata for a novel may be the author’s name, plot, the date it was published, number of pages, and keywords too. For a music file, it may be the artist’s name, the date it was released, music length, and the album. So you see that it’s essentially the data of data.

Metadata can be stored in the file or other location. It can be manually created or created automatically based on what is.

Also Read : Are you Hacked? How to Find Out and What to Do Next?

Types of Metadata

1. Descriptive Metadata

For descriptive metadata, it contains information about the file that would help those who read it understand its content.

For example, an image would have metadata that includes the camera manufacturer, editing software if any was used, exposure time, lens aperture time, brightness, color space, orientation, owner of the camera, and the location where the image was taken.

A book would contain metadata such as author name, title, printing date and book edition, a summary, and ISBN.

Phone conversations also have descriptive metadata and it includes who made the call, who it was made to, the time it was made, the duration, and also the location it was made from.

2. Preservation Metadata

For preservation metadata, it contains data about an item’s position in a list or sequence. It comes in handy during navigation.

3. Rights Metadata

Rights metadata includes data that proves the right of a person or company to something. It includes copyright status, license terms, or rights holder.

4. Markup Languages

Markup language metadata includes a heading, paragraph, date, list, and name.

5. Technical Metadata

Technical metadata comes in handy for digital object management. It includes file type, size, type of compression used, creation date, and time.

6. Structural Metadata

Structural metadata provides details on how the data is stored. You can get this information just by observing in most situations. For example, when you see a book, the structural metadata that would be provided would let you know if the book has a hardcover or soft one, the weight of the book, and also its shape.

How to Deal with Metadata

Since metadata still gives enough information that can be used to link your activities to you, it undermines your effort to stay anonymous hence the need to remove or reduce it.

Create Noise

Creating noise is one of the most effective ways of reducing metadata from a file. By inducing noise, you are producing additional data so that the metadata would be inaccurate and useless.

Use Software

Online services generate metadata as you use them, and they use this to learn more about you. So instead of using online services for a task, use open-source software.

You will also need to use software to remove the metadata that is added to images and documents from the source programs. Examples of tools you can use to remove these include; ImageOptim for mac OS X, Metadata Anonymization Toolkit for Linux, and Microsoft Office Document Inspector for windows.

Uses of Metadata

1. Metadata for Tracking

Metadata is used by online retailers to track your activities online so they can build a profile of you. with all of this information, they will know your routine and preferences and market their products to you.

Metadata can also be used by your ISP to monitor your web activities.

2. Social Media

When you try to sign up for third party services via social networks like Facebook, these apps request access to your personal information. They are trying to use the metadata the social network has stored about you so they can also better identify you. Data such as your liked pages and your interests on Facebook can also be used to send targeted ads your way.

3. Database Management

When it concerns database management, metadata refers to the size and format of a data item. It helps in the interpretation of database data.

4. Computer Files

Every file has its own metadata that helps the computer better understand what it is working with, and also so that the user would understand the file quickly. 

5. Web Searches

With metadata, web pages can be searched for easily using the right keywords. This is possible as every web page has metadata that includes keywords, page title, description, and the date published among others.

6. Email

Emails include data such as the email address and names of both sender and receiver. Other details include the IP address of the sender, time, and subject. For emails, metadata is used to get the recipient right, and for proper display of the message.

7. Phone

Metadata is used to connect calls and log calls that are made for billing. It may include the caller’s phone number, the time the call was made, its duration, and the locations of both parties.


As useful as metadata is, it can be a nuisance if you are looking to keep a very low profile on the internet. Even if metadata isn’t the data itself, it can be used to identify you and your activities online.  It doesn’t give away your data but gives some detail about your data that can be used to track you, so it’s best to do away with metadata if you are keen on your online privacy and anonymity.