Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Looking at Metadata

A word processed document can include information such as the dates it was created and modified, changes made, and comments attached to it. So if opposing counsel sends you a document as an email attachment, is it OK to take a look? You'd love to find a comment like "weak argument - hope the other side doesn't notice" wouldn't you?

Some ethics experts say it's not right to peek, but now there's an ABA ethics opinion that says "Go ahead!" Lawyers Receiving Electronic Documents are Free to Examine 'Hidden' Metadata: ABA Ethics Opinion, ABA News Release, Nov. 9, 2006:

The ABA committee noted metadata is ubiquitous in electronic documents, and includes such information as the last date and time that a document was saved and by whom, data on when it was accessed, the name of the owner of the computer that created the document and the date and time it was created, and a record of any changes made to the document or comments written into it.

“Other types of metadata may or may not be as well known and easily understandable ... Moreover, more thorough or extraordinary investigative measures sometimes might permit the retrieval of embedded information that the provider … either did not know existed, or thought was deleted,” said the opinion. And while the opinion said most metadata “probably is of no import,” it added that the metadata can sometimes reveal such critical information as “who knew what when,” or negotiating strategy and positions.
Thanks: beSpacific.

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