Technology: Recent cases help evolve guidelines for producing metadata

Keeping ESI load files in a forensically sound manner that preserves metadata is key.

What is metadata? The most basic definition is that metadata is “data about data,” but this does not give practitioners much guidance. A better definition is that metadata is information associated with—and made part of—an electronic document that is not visible in the normal viewing or printing of that document. Examples include a document's file creation date, the file's location, the document's author, the word count, tracked changes and comments.

Lawyers can use metadata during the e-discovery process to more efficiently search for relevant documents. For example, by relying on document timestamps, you can set date and time restrictions to narrow the scope of your collection. Metadata can be used to authenticate documents, particularly if a case goes to trial. Metadata also provides timelines for electronically stored information (ESI). For example, if a case requires you to show the evolution of a contract over time, metadata can enable you to do that. It also can help you identify custodians who may have sent, received or made changes to a particular document.

Additional metadata fields for e-mail are:

  • To: Addressee(s) of the message
  • From: The e-mail address of the person sending the message
  • CC: Person(s) copied on the message
  • BCC: Person(s) blind copied on the message
  • Date Sent: Date the message was sent
  • Time Sent: Time the message was sent
  • Subject: Subject line of the message
  • Date Received: Date the message was received
  • Time Received: Time the message was received
  • Attachments: The Bates number ranges of e-mail attachments

The case was in the context of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The plaintiffs had requested FOIA records from four government agencies—Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and Office of Legal Counsel. The defendants’ FOIA response included five .pdf files totaling less than 3,000 pages. The plaintiffs objected that the data was:

Vice President, eDiscovery and Deputy General Counsel

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Patrick Zeller

Patrick Zeller, vice president, eDiscovery and deputy general counsel, provides oversight and coordination to Guidance Software’s eDiscovery efforts, leads the company’s relationship with its strategic...

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