Reversing Privacy Risks: Strict Limitations on the Use of Communications Metadata and Telemetry Information


In this paper, we examine private-sector collection and use of metadata and telemetry information  and provide three main contributions: 

First, we lay out the extent to which “non-content”—the hidden  parts of Internet communications (aspects the user does not  explicitly enter) and telemetry—are highly revelatory of personal  behavior. We show that, privacy policies notwithstanding, users  rarely know that the metadata and telemetry information is being  collected and almost never know the uses to which it is being put. 

Second, we show that consumers, even if they knew the uses to  which this type of personal information were being put, lack  effective means to control the use of this type of data. The standard  tool of notice-and-choice has well known problems, including the  user’s lack of information with which to make a choice; and then,  even if the user had sufficient information, doing so is not  practical.49 These are greatly exacerbated by the nature of the  interchanges for communications metadata and telemetry  information. Each new transmission—each click on an internal link  on a webpage, for example—may carry different implications for a  user in terms of privacy. The current regimen, notice-and-choice,  presents a completely unworkable set of requests for a user, who  could well be responding many times a minute regarding whether  to allow the use of metadata beyond the purposes of content  delivery and display. This is especially the case for telemetry, where  the ability to understand both present and future use of the data  provided from the sensors requires a deeper understanding of what  information these devices can provide than anyone but a trained  engineer would know. 

Third, while there has been academic and industry research on  telemetry’s use, there has been little exploration of the policy and  legal implications stemming from that use. We provide this factor,  while at the same time addressing the closely related issues raised  by industry’s use of communications metadata to track user  interests and behavior.


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Reversing Privacy Risks: Strict Limitations on the Use of Communications Metadata and Telemetry Information


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