What is Metadata – Cell Phone Towers and Police Investigations

Metadata is the data you don’t see when you read your email or SMS message or take a phone call. Metadata is the information about the content of an electronic communication, but does not include the content.

Metadata is the data that provides all the details the recipient, the author, the length, the language, the date and time of the message,

but not what the message says.

Metadata will disclose the location of a cell tower that a mobile telephone utilises, without pinpointing the location of the mobile phone itself. Whilst, metadata is different to content data, it provides you with everything you need to recreate, or reverse engineer the content. Consider the image below:


Metadata is relevant to police investigations when they rely on cell phone tower locations to attempt to identify that a person (or their phone) is in the vicinity of a crime scene. Such evidence is commonly relied upon in drug trafficking cases or cases where police rely on circumstantial evidence to identify an offender.