Muddling Through the Metadata Morass” is the title of the newest electronic discovery column George Socha and I have written for the website.
Many lawyers have difficulty in understanding what metadata is. George offers a simple method for seeing a good example of metadata:
” For a quick look at basic metadata associated with a file, open any Microsoft Office application, such as Word or Excel. If you are in Word, select ” File” from the menu bar. From the drop-down menu, choose “Properties” (if you do not see “Properties” then select the two downward-pointing arrows to see the full slate of choices). This should bring up a separate box on your screen with five tabs: “General,” “Summary,” “Statistics,” “Contents” and “Custom.” Each of these tabs shows metadata associated with the file.”
As I say:
“There are many open questions. Given the lack of awareness of many lawyers, simply turning off the “track changes” on Word documents, which does not remove the metadata, does in fact make it invisible to unsophisticated readers. How would a court treat that approach? Is it possible to educate a judge about metadata and obtain a protective order that effectively permits the scrubbing of metadata? Should discovery requests routinely refer to production of documents in a format where metadata has not been scrubbed or altered?”
George ends with a useful question that any lawyer involved in electronic discovery should keep in mind – “What would I do with paper?”