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eDiscovery metadata can be used to display valuable information not evident from a document’s content alone. For example, data within a document can divulge the creation date, who created it and how many times it may have been modified.
Metadata is the information generated within a piece of electronic data and is ‘data about data’. It exists within every digital item stored on physical devices, such as your computer and smartphone. The information contained within metadata can include the user who created it, creation date, history, and document software used to create it. These devices may also collect metadata about your usage, creating a digital footprint. These properties may be automatically generated by your operating system, or the application you are using.
Metadata often tells the rest of the story about the document and, therefore, is often a key focus of eDiscovery. However, there are still lawyers who are not fully aware of the benefits of preserving, collecting and utilising metadata, in part because they are not entirely clear on what it is and how it can be beneficial.
The metadata of a file can include information about:
All this information is crucial to the electronic tools that are used to filter, sort, prioritise and evaluate the ESI (Electronically Stored Information) before producing it.
As useful as metadata is, it is also susceptible to alteration. Opening or previewing documents will alter their last accessed date. Copying a file can also change the creation date to the date it was copied. Saving a file can alter its last modified date and some applications carry the original author’s name, even if another person copies the file and modifies it. If it is needed for litigation, it is imperative that the legal professional dealing with the matter does not attempt to access the data. In doing so, the data will be altered, rendering the information useless.
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