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(computer science)
A description of the data in a source, distinct from the actual data; for example, the currency by which prices are measured in a data source for purchasing goods.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(Note: One unhyphenated word with initial capital; contrast meta data) A word coined by Jack E. Myers to represent current and future lines of products implementing the concepts of his MetaModel, and also to designate his company The Metadata Company that would develop and market those products.

A data and publication search performed when Myers coined the term, early in the summer of 1969, did not discover any use either of the word "metadata" or "meta data". Myers used the term in a 1973 product brochure and it is an Incontestable registered U.S. Trademark.
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(1) (The Metadata Company, LLC, Long Beach, CA, Formerly Metadata Information Partners, Metadata is a software firm offering a variety of data management products and services. In 1986, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the company incontestable status for the Metadata trademark. Whenever the term is used generically in this encyclopedia (definition #2 below), it is spelled with a dash (meta-data).

(2) (meta-data) Data that describes other data. For example, data dictionaries and repositories provide information about the data elements in a database (see data dictionary). Digital cameras store meta-data in the image files that include the date the photo was taken along with camera settings (see EXIF). Digital music files contain meta-data such as song title and artist name (see ID3 tag). Meta-data are stored in an HTML page (Web page) to help search engines define the page properly, and most especially, make it rank higher in the results list (see meta tag).

Meta-data has existed for centuries. Card catalogs and handwritten indexes are examples long before the electronic age. See Meta Data Coalition.

A Glaring Lack of Meta-Data - The Music CD
Music CDs should have been initially designed with meta-data, such as album name, artist and song titles. In the early 1980s, readouts to display such data on a CD player were expensive, and although a few thousand bytes could have easily been reserved for future use, there was no such accommodation. Later on, CDs were played on the computer, and the solution was a circuitous route of searching for titles by track length on the Internet (see CDDB). When meta-data was finally added, there were conflicts in older stand-alone CD players that attempted to play them.

Meta-Data in the Snowden Debacle
After former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked top-secret American surveillance programs to the press in May 2013, meta-data came front and center. It was revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had undertaken massive phone surveillance, and the controversy was about what was recorded: the actual voice conversations or only the meta-data (times and telephone numbers of the calls). Even when voice content is not recorded, the meta-data can be analyzed to determine who might be in contact with suspected terrorists.

Meta-Data in an Image File
A huge amount of meta-data can be stored in an image file. The IPTC Core section (expanded below) is a meta-data standard from the International Press Telecommunications Council for adding creation data.

A Ton More
An image file can be edited to include a huge amount of meta-data to describe the file. DICOM stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine.
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References in periodicals archive ?
In addition, as the world's first such technology, it can maintain consistency while managing both the document's original file and meta data as a set, ensuring traceability with just the revisions to the original file when documents are revised.
The content independent meta data (author's name, date, location, etc.) are out of the scope of the work.
Furthermore, users of the application should also be able to view author citation and collaboration relationships that could be extracted from the available bibliographic meta data.
Simply scan all documents of interest and then enter the document meta data descriptions at a later date.
The volume opens with an invited talk, "Precognition: Thinking about the Query before it Happens." The rest are organized around the sessions on data and Web mining, Web application, Web data management, XML (extensible markup language), Web informational retrieval, information integration, information extraction and meta data, and Web services.
This is achieved by separating the data and meta data (data about the data) into different places.
"Ascential DataStage, our ETL solution, delivers added value to end-users because it is part of the Ascential Enterprise Integration Suite(TM), an end- to-end platform that provides all of the components necessary for complete enterprise data integration, including data profiling and data quality capabilities, meta data management, service-oriented architecture, and parallel execution."
It provides an environment to manage enriching the set of tags or "meta data" describing each item in a 10-K or 10-Q, for example, even footnote data and other information peculiar to that entity or industry.
Secondary analysis is performed by searching the meta data for the relevant files, retrieving the relevant data and placing them into a set location such as a directory.
Share common meta data. With data from separate sources often having conflicting meanings, it's critical to share meta data across end-to-end integration processes to have one enterprise data "dictionary" for all users.
The FSDB is a repository of file meta data derived from published software allowing customers to identify, authenticate and assure the integrity of files.