Metadata Goes to Court

April 22, 2011

Ben Kerschberg at Forbes examines “Metadata, The Freedom of Information Act, and Government Hypocrisy.” At issue is whether government agencies, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, must provide all the metadata attached to documents.

A recent federal court case, National Day Laborer Organizing Network v. United States Immigration and Customers Enforcement Agency in the U.S. District Court for the South District of New York, supports the case for providing all electronically stored information (ESI). However, there’s a caveat for agencies that don’t routinely store this data in their own files. Regarding which types of information must be included, the Court stated:

The answer depends, in part, on the type of electronic record at issue (i.e., text record, e-mail, or spreadsheet) and on how the agency maintains its records. Some agencies may maintain only a printed or imaged document as the final or official version of a record. Others retain all records in native formats, which preserves much of the metadata. Electronic records may have migrated from one system to another, maintaining some metadata but not all. The best way I can answer the question is that metadata maintained by the agency as a part of an electronic record is presumptively producible under FOIA, unless the agency demonstrates that such metadata is not “’readily producible.

My interest here lies in the specification of searchable material: If the government’s stored records are searchable PDFs, the released version can’t be converted into an unsearchable image. However, one can use a third party solution such as PDF OCR.

See the Forbes piece for more information and analysis.

Cynthia Murrell April 22, 2011



One Response to “Metadata Goes to Court”

  1. Weekly Top Story Digest - April 27, 2011 | ComplexDiscovery on April 27th, 2011 7:11 am

    […] Goes to Court – (Cynthia […]

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