Metadata is a word that was once reserved for the halls of high-tech companies and academia. But since the revelation of mass surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA) — which collect troves of big-picture data on American citizens — the concept of data about data has entered the public lexicon. Now, the techies over at MIT’s Media Lab are giving us a glimpse at our own metadata, giving us a cold, hard look at the bread crumbs of personal data we freely scatter across the Web.
Much like the government phone-surveillance programs, Immersion doesn’t need to access the content of communications. Instead, by gathering information about the senders and recipients of all the e-mails in an inbox, it can create a detailed portrait of the user’s social connections. Each person’s picture on Immersion is as unique as a fingerprint, but much more informative.
Read more: Forget the NSA: This MIT Website Just Needs Your Gmail to Track You | TIME.com