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New Importance In Metadata Collection

Metadata has been around for a long time but is garnering new attention in the eDiscovery world. Metadata contains information about the creation and editing of electronic documents. E-mail, word processing documents, spreadsheets, database records - all of these and more will have some level of metadata attached to it. Basic metadata includes information on the document's creator and modifiers and the date and times that it was created and acted upon. Metadata matters in eDiscovery because it goes to prove pesky details like the actual dating of an email message as opposed to a modified hard copy, or the fact that a government-produced Word document was reviewed by a lobbyist firm. Interesting, and information that could be crucial to litigation.

Production is the final stage in eDiscovery where IT prepares reviewed discovery documents for external viewing. Production may be print or electronic, with the balance shifting from hard copies to digital production. With hard copies, metadata wasn't an issue, but litigation parties are increasingly requesting
electronic production, making metadata is a huge issue. The courts are coming down hard on the side of produced metadata. A recent case in point is the Supreme Court of Arizona's ruling on
public records requests in the state. This opinion, along with several others, was directed to
Phoenix's city attorney and Arizona's state attorney. The opinion states:

"The City of Phoenix denied a public records request for metadata in the electronic version of a public record. We today hold that if a public entity maintains a public record in an electronic format, then the electronic version, including any embedded metadata, is subject to disclosure under our public records laws."

This interesting - and I believe, correct - opinion vacated an earlier Court of Appeals decision which held that metadata was not included in the public's right to access public documents. Other state courts have made similar rulings. 

For corporations, this means that when IT is charged with collecting or producing documents in an eDiscovery response, they must be capable of preserving metadata along with the produced electronically stored information (ESI). Even with hard-copy, there must be a method of quickly recovering and producing metadata without having to re-do the entire search. (Perish the thought.)  IT must be prepared to retain metadata, and Legal must be able to guide them in doing that. Whatever data retention software a corporation uses, it should be capable of searching and archiving metadata as well. Some of the vendors these capabilities include Guidance, Mimosa, StoredIQ, Recommind and EMC Kazeon.