Information Analysis and Discovery Depend on Metadata

Information Analysis and Discovery Depend on Metadata

“We kill people based on metadata.” That was the statement from the former head of the NSA, General Michael Hayden during an interview with ABC News. In another interview, I recall watching a U.S. congressman say that metadata was one of the key tools for combatting terrorism. The intent of this post isn’t to suggest that the metadata is necessarily a matter of life or death to those of us in traditional information governance roles. Although it can be argued that metadata in healthcare could mean the difference between life and death. For example, suppose a patient’s previous MRI records cannot be discovered and retrieved to aid in treatment when timeliness is essential to his/her well-being.

Over the past several months I’ve written several times about the importance of metadata to information governance. What struck me about the interview comments above is just how critical or valuable metadata is recognized to be in the area of analytics and discovery. Finding terrorists among the litany of phone records, social media activities and e-mail captured depends on the metadata collected along with it. This is very much like analyzing and discovering trends in customer behavior based on information available and/or captured by a commercial organization. Information governance practitioners are well aware of how metadata enables policies to be applied and executed across electronically stored information (ESI). Now that we are hearing politicians, military leaders and even talking heads on news broadcasts discussing its importance, the simpler it may be to get the end users to understand their role in accurately tagging information they create.

The basic point here is that the field of Big Data/analytics is raising awareness of capabilities necessary for its success, which also benefit information governance practices. Leveraging these benefits to support your case for further investment in IG could provide the justification needed for executive-level buy-in. Perhaps saying “We kill people based on metadata” is a bit too over the top in garnering their assistance, although I do recall several executives I worked with say they wanted to “crush the competition [based on metadata].”