Metadata may be one of those geeky terms you’ve heard before, but have never worried about, leaving the interpretation for the more technical people in your company. However, it is important that you understand what metadata is and know how it can affect you and your business.
What is Metadata?
Metadata is data that provides more information to help describe another piece of data. Metadata makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource. For example, let’s use Boston as our example. So, Boston is the “data.” Associated “metadata” is:
- It is a city,
- It has many historic places,
- it is home of the Red Sox, a baseball team.
Metadata is stored within documents or other data, like an email. Metadata s the message that was sent, words, attachments, links, etc. Common metadata includes: the specific information about who sent it, when it was sent, the time it was sent, individuals who were copied on the email, etc. Some of this metadata is shown by your email client. However, much of the metadata is hidden deep within the email itself.
Emails messages contain headers that are loaded with information such as IP addresses, if the message passed through a spam/security filter, and even where the data is stored. Images also contain metadata. Metadata about a picture may include the image resolution, when it was created, who created it, when it was received, etc. A text document has metadata that describes how many words it contains, who the author was, and other important descriptive information.
A purpose of all of this metadata is to allow for categorization and description of electronic information, making it easier to find and analyze the email or document. If you want to learn more deeply about a piece of data, looking into the metadata is your best bet. It can tell you what the data is, when it was created, where it has been, if it has been copied or changed, and much more.
Why Worry About Metadata?
If a large part of metadata goes unseen, why then is it important? Years ago, when letters were the main form of communication, senders would stamp their envelopes with a wax seal. This seal showed that the letter had maintained its integrity and had not been tampered along the journey from sender to receiver. In the same way, metadata is the stamp that gives any data its integrity. If the metadata is there, it can be shown and proven that the data is authentic. On the other hand, a document without data is like the body of a car without an engine. Looks like the real thing but not totally authentic.
Understanding what metadata is–and knowing how to use it–is extremely important when you consider the information that you are archiving. Data may be archived, but if metadata is left behind and is not archived and made accessible, it will prove much less useful. For example, metadata serves three key roles in litigation requests and lawsuits:
- It can authenticate any data and its source
- It leaves a trail that can be followed and potentially reveal even more relevant information
- It allows for authenticity verification.
Metadata in Law
Metadata has played key roles in past lawsuits. Take a look:
- August 1, 2013 in Barrette Outdoor Living, Inc. v. Michigan Resin Representatives, 2013 WL 3983230 (E.D. Mich), The parties disputed over various issues, one of them being an alleged theft of $400,000. The plaintiff accused one of the defendant’s employees of wiping relevant information from his devices. A computer forensics expert was brought in. He was able to follow the trail of metadata left on the devices to find useful information and light into the case.
- In Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President, Office of Administration, The court ruled that records the U.S. government agencies had kept did not include metadata or other electronic information, and therefore they were not in compliance with recordkeeping regulations.
- United Med. Supply Co. v. United States, A preservation order from the court identified that parties should preserve and produce all documents, data, and tangible things. The court of law concluded that this included metadata.
Metadata serves as a trail to lead to more information and is a determining factor in court cases. Defendants can face charges for not keeping metadata. Even if you are archiving data, the archive is incomplete without all data because, in order for information to be completely authentic, it must contain, once again, metadata.
Retain Excels with Metadata
At GWAVA, we are dedicated to providing you the most efficient, effective archive that can be offered. Retain integrates directly with the email messaging system to archive and preserve metadata in Office 365, Exchange, Gmail or GroupWise, in both the message contents and attachments. Check out this related blog post to learn about the difference between SMTP archiving and the integrated archiving provided with Retain.
A key issue with all electronically stored information (ESI) in court/compliance cases is authenticating and validating the information. Rule 34(b)(1)(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that all ESI be produced in native format, with metadata attached. Missing metadata could result in the rejection of presented evidence. Companies need to focus not only on preserving information in its native format, but they also must ensure that records are not tampered with after being stored, keeping in mind that tampering can be done by anyone, even those with little technical background. This means that even though you have all your ESI archived, it might be useless to you if it is not archived correctly.
In Retain, you can be sure that not only are the visible aspects of a record archived, but that all necessary metadata is being preserved as well. Retain goes above and beyond by assuring that once archived, the email data cannot be tampered with. Once archived, all ESI is has the authentic metadata and proper chain of custody, stored in its native format. Furthermore, only administrators have the ability to manage records, and every action is recorded within Retain with a complete audit trail. All searches are also logged. And timestamping is used to show when records are accessed, making everything stored in the archive impossible to tamper with or alter as well as being completely authentic and presentable in a court of law.
In addition to archiving email messages, Retain can easily archive social media and archive mobile device communication like text messages, along with all metadata. This archived data can be instantly retrieved, searched, and published in one central location. All of these features and more make Retain your best bet for creating a secure, reliable archive and that your organization is always in compliance.
Get Started Today!
Integrate Retain into your company’s IT infrastructure and rest assured knowing that everything you need to archive will be taken care of. The metadata archiving that Retain offers will ensure that all of your records can be proven authentic, and it can provide a complete audit trail for digging deeper into any key issue. Our team would love to assist you in getting Retain running!