Between the Lines: Learning to Love Metadata


April 11, 2022

Backstory: A Nerd in a Newsroom

Metadata. It is the catalogue of information that all electronic files keep about their own activities.

Nebbish Nerd says what!?

What? All electronic files are built on code that stores and accumulates data about their activities – and do so much more meticulously than even an attorney billing time.

But Metadata, in all its geeky glory, is one of the unsung heroes of electronic discovery, because it tells the true story of the document. And that’s kind of a big deal.

Indeed, if more reliable evidence leads to a truer fact discovery, and better fact discovery leads to more accurate, fact-based outcomes, then Metadata is a real-world champion of truth and justice!

And, more practically, these data are a wonderful basis to defensibly cull and locate the evidence that matters – saving time and money.

This is why vdiscovery takes great pains – even developing new tools on demand – to bring out key metadata hiding inside electronic files. After all, each metadatum can be a hero when called to action!

The Setup: Swiping Right

In litigation and discovery support, in any database, as in any dating app, we have to be choosy.

Attorneys and paralegals are busy people and cannot spend their clients’ money dallying with extraneous metadata. With the technologies afforded today, a savvy reviewer can get down to business quickly and efficiently with the right…metadata fields.

When using an electronic discovery platform, for example, an administrator or reviewer will choose the columns they want to see, eliminating fields of metadata to review more simply, customizing a coding panel, or selecting fields for a document production.

In a quick engagement, do you really need to know about attachment levels? Why should it matter if one custodian is in a different time zone, so what? So you swipe those fields from the right box to the left and swap the ones you want to the left, swipe and swap, swap and swipe until just the fields you need remain.

In the fast-paced world of litigation, who has time for technicalities, you need to choose quickly.

The Build: Invisible Metadata?

But given the power of metadata, we also need to choose wisely.

For one thing, there could be more context in those less sexy fields than just to, from, cc, date sent, date last accessed, date created. Serial date-ing is not always the best solution. For quality, a little more investigation into matching your case facts to the metadata you want to see can really pay off.

Moreover, what if the data you most need, the White Knight of your tale, is out there – but does not appear in your field of metadata candidates? How can you choose the metadatum you can’t even see?

The Story: Cutting the Contextual Tension

That is exactly what happened on a recent construction litigation handled by vdiscovery.

After processing a large set of data, our team applied a variety of culls and loaded the surviving documents, with attendant metadata to the Relativity platform, where our client began to review.

At one point during review, the clients became focused on video data, as these files contained key evidence of events that transpired at the construction sites. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is…worth many thousands of words.

But while text and data are the body of the evidence, our client needed something more than words.

In addition to the videos and standard metadata fields, our client needed rock solid evidence that these cameras were onsite, rolling at the times in question. But details on the provenance of the images – the camera make/model, the dates/times when the videos were created, and the GPS coordinate locations – are not standard metadata fields mapped by processing tools. At best they’re lumped into extra fields which look like garbage to the average data processor – at worst they are not collected at all.

The Exciting Conclusion: Finding your Soul-Metadata

But vdiscovery sees in every field of metadata a potential game changer, and so we create custom solutions and software, even for individual clients and circumstances. And we know that if clearly establishing the time, place, and veracity of a video feed is of value for one client, it will come up again.

So, our team quickly stepped up to the challenge of this case. Our Director of Analysts and lead staff developer, Nikolai Pozdniakov, wrote a C# application in a single afternoon, using a Windows API to locate and extract those elusive camera metadata. After thoroughly sampling the outputs, we presented our client with the additional metadata fields within their Relativity workspace.

In short, with a little help from their friends at vdiscovery, our clients located the right metadata to speak their truth, creating that deeper evidentiary connection they had been hoping for.

To watch our video regarding this story, click the link below!

Author: Jared Harary, Principal at vdiscovery

vdiscovery Media Contact:

Maeve Green, Digital Marketing Coordinator