You Don't Want My Metadata.

A few years ago everyone wanted to talk about "metadata."

There were CLE seminars on it, papers, you name it.

Of course the Florida Bar got involved and the Florida Bar Board of Governors held a conference and naturally everyone got very worried about it -- so worried that several of the board members hadn't heard the word "metadata" until the meeting in which they immediately voted to denounce it.

I don't want to say it reached what I would describe as the highest level of inordinate outsized media attention --"flatbread mania" if you will, but it got up there.

Add to that the annoying obligation recently imposed by the CM/ECF system to check off your awareness of your redaction responsibilities every time you log on -- thank you, stupid bankruptcy lawyers! -- and you have a perfect storm of y2k-style paranoia brewing.

Just a few moments ago I received this email from a federal district court advising that even your well-intentioned yet totally lame redaction methods may be inadequate:
Some redaction techniques used when e-filing are ineffective, in that the text intended to be hidden or deleted can be read via a variety of techniques. And, because information about the document, called "metadata", is also stored inside the document, it is often viewable as well. Examples of metadata and hidden data include the name and type of file, the name of the author, the location of the file on your file server, the full-sized version of a cropped picture, and prior revisions of the text.

E-filers must use extra care to make sure that the PDF documents to be submitted to ECF are fully and completely free of any hidden data which may contain redacted information. The protection of sensitive data can be compromised if improper redaction techniques are used. Here are a couple of examples of sensitive-data visibility issues:

* Highlighting text in black or using a black box over the data in MS Word or Adobe Acrobat will not protect the data from being able to be seen. Changing the text color to white so it disappears against the white screen/paper is similarly ineffective.

* Previous revisions and deleted text may be able to be seen by manipulating an Adobe Acrobat file.

If somebody wants to take the time to unpack my one page notice and learn that I spent half the day rewriting the first page of the brilliant graphic novelization of Kafka's Metamorphosis to include wild half-man, half-bug sex between Gregor Samsa and Drew Barrymore, so be it:
One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug. He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-like sections. From this height the blanket, just about ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.

“What’s happened to me,” he thought. It was no dream. His room, a proper room for a human being, only somewhat too small, lay quietly between the four well-known walls. Above the table, on which an unpacked collection of sample cloth goods was spread out—Samsa was a travelling salesman—hung the picture which he had cut out of an illustrated magazine a little while ago and set in a pretty gilt frame. It was a picture of Drew Barrymore from her January 1995 Playboy pictorial, with several well-placed tattoos and a smile that could make a man go buggy with primal animal desire. She sat erect there, lifting up in the direction of the viewer a solid fur muff into which her entire forearm had disappeared.
It goes on from there, but you get the picture.

There, I hope it was worth it, all you efiling metadata thieves -- happy now?


  1. SFL, Gregor Samsa making out with Drew Barrymore presents a compelling case for data mining every notice of appearance.

  2. I've been living in the bible-belt too long. I was almost shocked by that last part.

  3. Hey, that is verbatim from the original!

  4. You need to keep going on this Kafka rewrite. I suggest embedding it in a summary judgment motion.

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