Our Story Happens Here
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

An MIT Project That Lets You Spy On Yourself

Of all the stuff on metadata I've seen in the past few weeks, this is my favorite:

It's my favorite in large part because it's my metadata.It comes from my Gmail account. The relationships it maps are, more or less, my life — orange circles for Planet Money, purple for Brooklyn, brown for college. The big red circle that gets cut off at the bottom of the screengrab is my mom.

The picture shows just how revealing metadata can be. Without knowing anything about the content of my emails, you can paint a pretty complete picture of my personal and professional universe.

I didn't make this picture, or choose the colors, or create categories, or anything. I just went to and gave the site permission to access my Gmail account and map my metadata. You can do it, too. It's fun and kind of creepy. It's like being your own Big Brother.

The project, called , was created by a few guys at the MIT Media Lab. It went live yesterday, according to the Boston Globe.

"When you see it all together, it is, in a way, an out-of-body experience," one of the creators of the project told the Globe. "You're seeing all of your network and you're seeing yourself out of it and you're seeing it from afar and you're seeing it in one picture."

Update #2: The site is back up.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Related Content
  • Online search engines that protect users' privacy are seeing a spike in traffic after the NSA surveillance revelations. DuckDuckGo, does not track users at all, says it's seen record-breaking traffic.
  • Millions of us are willing are share intimate details about ourselves online — but we may be inadvertently sharing more than we mean to. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin talks to NPR's Steve Henn about how parents and kids can protect their privacy online.
  • The news that the nation's spy agencies have been collecting phone records has been followed by word that they're also gathering up reams of information from the servers of major Internet and tech companies.
  • In light of all the snooping by the government on individuals, it seems that it's not that difficult for anyone with the know-how to find out what you're doing. Bill Supernor, CTO of security company Koolspan, speaks to Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon about how to keep your smartphone safe.