According the New York Times, "It pays to mind your metadata"--
[R]ight-wing blogs were buzzing for at least a few days last week when an unsigned Microsoft Word document was circulated by the Democratic National Committee. The memo referred to the "anti-civil rights and anti-immigrant rulings" of Samuel A. Alito Jr., a federal appeals court judge who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush.
The stern criticisms of Judge Alito rubbed some commentators the wrong way (Chris Matthews of MSNBC called it "disgusting" last Monday). But whatever the memo's rhetorical pitch, right-leaning bloggers revealed that it contained a much more universal, if unintended, message: It pays to mind your metadata.
Technically, metadata is sort of the DNA of documents created with modern word-processing software. By default, it is automatically saved into the deep structure of a file, hidden from view, with information that can hint at authorship, times and dates of revisions (along with names of editors) and other tidbits that, while perhaps useful to those creating the document, might be better left unseen by the wider world.
The Times article, which quotes legal weblogger Dennis Kennedy, offers an interesting tale of electronic sleuthing that has important lessons for litigators engaged in electronic discovery--for example, mind the metadata.
With this month's Fortune magazine also focusing on computer forensics in CSI in Your Hard Drive, electronic discovery may have finally hit the big time.