Explaining metadata collection with Alan Turing, Theresa May and Winston Churchill

My latest Guardian column is a one-act historical drama about metadata, starring Winston Churchill, Alan Turing and UK Home Secretary Theresa May:

May: Mr Turing and his colleagues have laboured hard with every hour that God has sent, but try as they might, they can extract nothing of use from the Enigma cipher.

Churchill: (roaring) Nothing? All these years, all this work, and you have nothing?

May: Well, not precisely nothing, prime minister. The lads have got far enough that they are able to extract "meta-data," but I stress again that this is of no strategic import and would in no way help us to compromise the foe.

Churchill: Meta-data? Tell me more of this meta-data? Is it a Greek word?

(May turns to Turing, who wipes his palms on his trousers)

Metadata – a wartime drama

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