A Day in the Life
of Metadata

Mapping the Everyday Consequences of Smartphone Location Metadata




A Day in the Life of Metadata (ADITLOM) is a multidisciplinary collaboration between social scientists and computer scientists to: demystify hidden location metadata in smartphones, and critically investigate their socioeconomic and political consequences.

ADITLOM consists of three sub-projects, all of which are aligned to support non-expert students, educators, researchers, policy writers and civil rights groups to undertake their own research into location metadata-related issues.

ADITLOM is seeking collaborators from a wide variety of professions and academic fields. If you are interested in working with us, please click here to connect with our Principal Investigator, Dr. Tommy Cooke.


ADITLOM began at Queen's University in 2018 and is the result of over $200,000 CDN in combined funding support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada,the Centre for Advanced Internet Studies, the Centre for Advanced Computing,and Queen's University's Wicked Ideas Competition.

Big Data Exposed


What stories do location data tell about us?


Every second of every day our smartphones produce and share data about our physical interactions with the world around us. But those data are not merely GPS coordinates. They consist of thousands of tiny measurements, such as changes in our elevation to the length of time it takes to connect to a satellite. Hundreds of organizations across the world collect these data to analyze our behaviour -
and often without our knowledge, understanding, or permission.

Funded by the Wicked Ideas research competition at Queen's University, Big Data Exposed (BDE) is a data experiment that launched in September 2021 to investigate the privacy effects of these processes. To do so, the ADITLOM team retrofitted smartphones with specialized software to monitor how hard-to-see location data were being collected by foreign organizations in real-time. The goal of the project is to promote awareness not only about how these other, hidden location data exist, but also what they contain, how they are being used and for what purposes.

Throughout 2022, our team will share two significant findings from this data experiment. One such deliverable is a Public Interest Report designed for Canadian smartphone owners, which outlines everything that we learned and recommendations for taking control over your data. Our team is also currently developing an interactive learning tool that you can use in your web browser to monitor the lifecycle of these hidden data.

For more information, click here


Coming Soon

API Diving

If APIs and their algorithms are responsible for creating, circulating and changing location data, what precisely are they doing to that data? API Diving is a deep exploration of individual operations within Android and Google-cloud based location APIs to identify precisely what processes and mechanisms may be responsible for catalyizing specific social, political, economic, cultural and privacy issues.

Android Pathways

How is location data created, where does it go, and how does it change? Android Pathways is an experiment that documents and the creation, circulation and transformation of a small amount of GPS coordinate data. Using specifically designed visualization software at Queen's University, this project illuminates the pathway that location data takes during its lifecycle, and visually clarifies what changes it undergoes before it is given to an App.


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