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LegalTech

Legal Technology for Students and Practitioners

What is metadata?

Metadata is information about any item that was created or posted electronically. Metadata is most often described as "data about data."

Metadata in documents, webpages, email, images, and spreadsheets may reveal:

deleted text edits revision dates
original author(s) editors dates created and edited
revised text reviewer's comments embedded formula
settlement strategies image source image resolution
and more.

 

Why does it matter?

As a lawyer, you must be concerned about metadata that discloses confidential or privileged information, including your thought and strategic process, as well as input from others.

In 2007, The American Bar Association's Center for Professional Responsibility published "What Lurks Within: Hidden Metadata in Electronic Documents Can Win or Lose Your Case" warning of the digital footprints that remain in your work. The admonition is even more relevant today as reliance on increasingly complex computer applications continues. Ethical opinions concerning inadvertent or wrongful disclosure of metadata abound in nearly every state. See, ABA Metadata Ethics Opinions Around the U.S. (June 08, 2012).

You cannot prevent metadata from embedding in your digital work

but you can, and usually must,

take steps to "scrub" metadata to avoid disclosure.