How to Manage Metadata in a Post-GDPR World

Have you ever uploaded a long list of photos to your computer or a cloud-based platform like Google Photos only to be left with a scrambled mess of subjects, locations, and events? When you‘re trying to find a particular selfie you took over spring break or a screenshot that‘s crucial to the project you’re currently working on, you might search for various keywords. In some programs, you’ll luck out with image recognition—though you’ll still waste time searching for the exact photo within the results. Eventually, you‘ll end up so frustrated that you’ll stop and enter the appropriate date, location, and other details for your photos. Your future self will thank you for your effort—and you will have implemented metadata management strategies without even realizing it.

What is metadata?

Commonly referred to as “data about data,” metadata refers to the machine-readable information about a piece of data. If we take the example of photos, this might include the file type and size, as well as the geolocation regarding where the photo was taken and what device the photographer used to take it. An MP3 or other music file might contain the artist and album names, year of release, and genre. If you used to put together playlists on iTunes, you might remember manually entering this metadata! In a professional sense, metadata is broken down into three primary types: business metadata, technical metadata, and operational metadata.

What is metadata management?

Metadata management, then, is defined as “the business discipline of managing the metadata about data.” By utilizing metadata management solutions and implementing a metadata standard across your organization, you can streamline your implementation of important metadata. In the example of photos above, metadata management would allow you to save time when finding a particular picture. Here, too, you’d want to define a metadata standard across albums or folders to avoid confusion. Unless you have a semantic search option available, if you refer to your dog by name in one photo, then by “dog” in another, and “puppy” in yet another, you’d get different photos when searching for each term, regardless of whether other images match that query, too.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is legislation enacted across the EU aiming to protect the privacy of European internet users. It’s important to note that this framework applies not only to websites based in the European Union—if your site can be accessed by viewers from Europe, GDPR applies. The entirety of GDPR implemented several new standards, including data breach notifications, data processes with a focus on privacy protection, customer consent requirements, record keeping, and proper handling of data across an organization.

How does GDPR affect metadata management?

Put simply, mandatory GDPR compliance requires organizations to be more aware of data in its many forms, including metadata. One could argue that metadata is, in fact, the most crucial piece of information because it provides all the details you’ll need to ensure your overall data is GDPR-compliant. With the amount of data constantly moving through businesses today, you’d have a much more challenging task ahead of you if try to manage this metadata manually, like you would an iTunes library. This is where metadata management solutions come into play. By learning even the basics of these tools, you gather valuable experience as you enter the workforce.

An effective metadata management strategy is vital to general data quality and, just as importantly, data governance. With the quality metadata, an organization can make better business decisions, as well as maintaing GDPR compliance. Having, using, and thoroughly understanding a metadata management tool is a critical aspect of GDPR compliance and business processes as a whole. The process of learning and implementing a metadata management strategy may seem overwhelming at first but, like with your disordered photos, can have a significant impact on how effectively you work, making it an asset for any company.

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