What is Video Metadata? “Metadata” is a term that we frequently hear today when talking about human rights video. But what does it mean, why does it matter, and what do activists need to know? “Metadata” means “data about data.” For video, this means data, or information, about the video. Examples of key video metadata include the date when the video was recorded, the location where it was recorded, the person who recorded the video, a description of the event, and any security restrictions needed to keep everyone involved in the video safe. Metadata can be automatically generated by devices or systems, or created by people. For example, metadata can be generated by a camera, and embedded as data in the digital video file. It can be created by the video maker or the people in the video, by including that information as part of the content of the video. It can be created by someone separately from the video, say, in a document or entry in a database. It can be generated by an online platform when you are sharing the video. Metadata is valuable for contextualizing raw unedited video so that viewers can identify, understand and find it, and authenticate and verify it if necessary. Determine what metadata you need to make your videos useful for your purposes, and collect or create that metadata in a systematic way. To permit easier authentication and verification, keep copies of your original video files so that you retain the original embedded metadata created by the camera. Metadata, like any kind of information, can endanger video makers or other people by identifying them, what they are saying or doing, or where they are. If there is metadata embedded in your video that puts you or others at risk, it is possible to edit or strip the metadata. Be aware, however, that this alters your video file. This may bring its authenticity into question and make it harder to verify. When creating metadata, be mindful of sensitive information. If needed, take precautions like using pseudonyms or codes when entering metadata in documents or databases. When uploading or sharing videos, research and be aware of what metadata the online platform is collecting and making accessible about your video and your activity. Metadata enables identification, authentication, and verification of your video. But it can serve you or be used against you. Take control by understanding when and where it is being generated, and knowing what you can add to enhance its usefulness. For more information on metadata, check out our Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video (archiveguide.witness.org).