In the wake of recent disclosures about the scope of the NSA’s surveillance of American communications, many people are understandably confused. The NSA has been collecting what they have classified as “metadata”, alleging that it is authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Metadata is essentially data about data. For example, if you send an email to a friend, the contents of the email are not readily discoverable by the government (without a warrant), but the information about the transmission is. (i.e. IP address, time sent, location of parties to the transmission, etc.) Essentially, the way FISA has been interpreted by the NSA means that the NSA does not need a warrant to collect a pool of data, but to dive in and look for something, judicial authorization is required. No matter where you stand in this debate, what is certain is that even with just metadata, quite a bit can be learned about someone.