Recent court rulings have made it pretty clear that the U.S. judicial system is embracing the notion that there is much more to a document than the words on the page, and that context is important.
Or, in other words, that metadata matters.
- In September 2010, in the Suffolk County, NY case of Romano v. Steelcase Inc. (907 N.Y.S.2d 650), the judge ordered that “defendant Steelcase’s motion for an order granting said defendant access to plaintiff’s current and historical Facebook and MySpace pages and accounts, including all deleted pages and related information, is hereby granted in all respects.”
The issue here centered on the plaintiff’s claim that certain injuries caused her to lose the ability to enjoy certain activities, and the defendant petitioned for access to her social media information in order to present photos it claimed show her enjoying those very same activities.
- Earlier this year, in the Indianapolis U.S. District Court case of Keaton v. Hannum (S.D. Ind. Apr. 29, 2013), the judge ruled that “The Court will review [email threads containing specific evidentiary messages] and to the extent that any of the foregoing documents are relevant to this dispute or must necessarily be produced to satisfy Fed. R. Evid. 106 and the Rule of Completeness, the Court will order them produced.”
Here, the issue revolves around whether the request to present an e-mail as evidence extends beyond the single e-mail in question to encompass the thread of which is a part. As an information professional, you no doubt immediately see how important all the email header information could be to this process, and one suspects the judge will too.
These two cases – and others like them – make it clear that records professionals and the NSA are not the only ones who recognize the importance of metadata to information management and use. So if you’re one who believes that a court’s demand for documentation can be satisfied with copies of what’s currently visible online or contained in a single e-mail message, you may want to think again.
How’s your metadata? Let us know in a comment, via social media, or sending us a note!