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Alextronic Discovery
An Electronic Discovery Blog covering News, Articles
and Thoughts for the Legal and Corporate Community Author: Alexander H. Lubarsky, LL.M., Esq. - alubarsky@enterusa.com - Tel. (415) 533-4166 OR 800-375-4222 THIS BLAWG IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE WEB SITES WWW.DISCOVERYRESOURCES.ORG OR WWW.DISCOVERYRESOURCES.COM


Sunday, March 21, 2004

MetaData SchmetaData  

MetaData SchmetaData

So I went through my metadata schpeel to the partner heading up the discovery project. Despite his stone face, I push on towards my punch line... my hand gestures reaching a climax and my voice growing ever more authoritative... "So that's why the metadata can make or break this case."

I don't even receive a consolation inspired eyebrow raise. This guy looks as if someone just tried to explain the principals of nuclear fusion. If I could only take that face to this weekend's poker night at Jeff's house, maybe Roxie would not go home the winner for a fourth straight month.

Time is frozen and the silence is excrutiating. I feel myself begin to blush.

Finally, the Senior Partner breaks his silence. "I've heard about this metadate thing you speak of, Alex. Candidly, it sounds like a lot of hocus pocus to me. Can the other guys really see stuff that will reveal my client's hand? Assuming they can, are they gonna really go out of their way to look for it? It must he pretty hard to find that stuff anyhow."

Thinking on my feet, I asked Mr. Senior Partner, "so, what word processor do you use?"

"Well, I use Word, but why?"

"Can we step into your office for a bit?"

Mr. Senior Partner looked a bit confused, but he complied with my cryptic request. Once inside, I asked him to open up an existing Microsoft Word memo, delete the body and replace it with the text "The firm's managing partner is a big fat idiot."

"So," belched Mr. Senior Partner, "what is this truism supposed to prove?"

"You wouldn't want your managing partner to see that would you?", I countered.

"Hell no! The truth can hurt!"

"So what will you do to make sure he never sees it?"

Senior Partner scratched his balding scalp a bit and then simply deleted the "big fat idiot" text and replaced it with "cutting edge stand out leader." I instructed him to save the document and then close it.

When we reopened the document, I suggested to Senior Partner that if he were to attach it to an e-mail and mail it to Managing Partner, it could change things for Senior Partner.

"With flattery like that, maybe I'd be next in line for his spot."

"Not so fast there," I cautioned, "let's assume we are Managing Partner and we've just detached this memo from an e-mail message."

I next took him to File - Properties - Statistics and pointed out that Senior Partner could easily see that the memo was recently modified by Senior Partner. This may pique Senior Partner's interest. How and why was it changed?

Senior partner could then go to Tools and Track Changes to reveal the "big fat idiot" comment. The beads of sweat began to form on Senior Partner's forehead. "So you mean, the other side could see everything as it was prior to being changed?"

"Now you got it... the line you may be standing in after this is delivered would be the unemployment line... not the firm's promotion track... can you imagine how this can be used to your client's disadvantage, say, if a settlement offer was mailed as a word processing document?"

"Holy smokes!"

After playing with the recover text features in Word, we then went into a few other areas where the stealthy metadata was just waiting to cause some damage. I was able to show how Word revealed hidden authors, comments, text, titles and versions as well as document summaries. I also explained that if Senior Partner went as far as to embed a link to an image of Benito Mussolini to his commentary and then delete that link, it could still be recovered.

After a few minutes of tinkering around on Word and Outlook, Managing Partner asked me if I would repeat my metadata presentation the following day to his litigation team. "We've really got to be on top of metadata" he concluded.

Score one for Alextronic!

posted by Alexander | 4:55 PM

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