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Government The Courts

Metadata In Arizona Public Records Can't Be Withheld 103

Posted by kdawson
from the never-met-a-data dept.
jasonbuechler writes in with news of the first state to declare that metadata is part of public records and must be released when the records are. "Hidden data embedded in electronic public records must be disclosed under Arizona's public records law, the state Supreme Court said Thursday... The Supreme Court's unanimous decision, which overturned lower court rulings, is believed to be the first by a state supreme court on whether a public records law applies to so-called metadata. 'This is at the cutting edge — it's the law trying to catch up with technology,' [one lawyer said]. The Arizona ruling came in a case involving a demoted Phoenix police officer's request for data embedded in notes written by a supervisor. The officer got a printed copy but said he wanted the metadata to see whether the supervisor backdated the notes to before the demotion."
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Metadata In Arizona Public Records Can't Be Withheld

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  • Just a part (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:03PM (#29925799) Journal

    of an ordinary "Audit Trail". Now, you don't have to rely on manual log-entries and sign-out sheets.

    • Re:Just a part (Score:5, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:17PM (#29925953)

      of an ordinary "Audit Trail". Now, you don't have to rely on manual log-entries and sign-out sheets.

      It says a lot that this actually went to court in the first place, let alone that it went to the state Supreme Court. What part of "public record" needed clarification, exactly?

      • Re:Just a part (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rickb928 (945187) on Friday October 30, 2009 @02:34PM (#29927017) Homepage Journal

        You apparently have never filed a FOIA request anywhere. Government is at least as secretive as private industry.

        In this case, clearly the police department didn't want to expose things such as 'when' and 'where', just the 'what' and 'who'. Add those other two items, and the 'why' becomes more evident.

        Good job, though. Hope it works out for him.

        • by causality (777677)

          You apparently have never filed a FOIA request anywhere. Government is at least as secretive as private industry.

          In this case, clearly the police department didn't want to expose things such as 'when' and 'where', just the 'what' and 'who'. Add those other two items, and the 'why' becomes more evident.

          Good job, though. Hope it works out for him.

          It was a rhetorical question. I know how things actually are. It's in contrast to how things should be. Applying the expectation of how things should be is how that can be changed.

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:10PM (#29925863) Homepage
    Probably deserves a promotion.
    • since he was demoted, wouldn't that put him back to where he was at?
    • by jep77 (1357465)

      To the computer forensics division. Or something.

    • by earnest murderer (888716) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:15PM (#29925933)

      Should probably get out of police work if he's got that much sense.

      Nothing against police officers, but once you cut through the hyperbole it's mostly a processing job with a car and a gun. If you step out of that role as a processor you're likely to harm yourself or others.

      • by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Friday October 30, 2009 @02:28PM (#29926923)
        I know more than a few (Phoenix) police officers and they claim an officer has to be smart or they won't last out on the street.

        BTW, this is the first I've herd of this lawsuit but I an glad of the outcome.
      • by rubi (910818)
        Should get out of the job, but not because of the job itself. Even if he gets re-moted/promoted/I-don't-know-what (isn't english as a second language wonderful?), he will get harrassed and looked down, passed-over, etc. probably for the rest of his career unless he finds some heavy-weight politician to back him up. At least that is how it is done here.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:18PM (#29925961)
      I would imagine when cops turn against each other, all sorts of hilarity ensues. They know their rights, plus they known the workings of the system, plus they have a lot of exposure to nefarious/criminal minds. Sort of like when two ambulance-chasing lawyers have a fender-bender.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk (75490)

        They know their rights

        That's odd, since they don't seem to respect anyone else's. I prefer to assume that they don't know, or that they are brainwashed.

        Never attribute to malice, that which can be attributed to stupidity

        • That's odd, since they don't seem to respect anyone else's(sic).

          That is because they know (a) You are supposed to know your rights and (b) You are suppose to stand up for your rights.

          At best it's problematic, the officers life is almost always on the line and you want to be treated fairly by someone who in the next minute might lose there life. It simply sucks on both sides.

          • by maxume (22995)

            That their lives are on the line is no excuse, they chose the job.

            (I have a lot of respect for people that choose to go into law enforcement, and I try to keep my interactions with them to a minimum, and calm when they are necessary, so I'm not saying this from some position where I think cops are a bunch of fascist assholes)

          • by tsm_sf (545316)
            At best it's problematic, the officers(sic, and HILARIOUS) life is almost always on the line and you want to be treated fairly by someone who in the next minute might lose there life.

            Yeah but being a construction worker is much more dangerous, and those guys generally aren't assholes.
            • by jargon82 (996613)
              The people a construction worker works and speaks with are (probably) less likely to try to kill them. Not that I'm saying this excuses assholeish cops.
            • So let me see if I have this right. The next time someone assaults you, robs you, rear ends you, rapes your wife or any number of unlawful act against your person, you are going to call a crook? Right? I just want to make sure.
      • by StormyWeather (543593) on Friday October 30, 2009 @02:09PM (#29926673) Homepage

        I ran an ISP owned by a lawyer once upon a time. The guy before me I found out had embezzled like 60 grand by writing checks to his wife for "services rendered". I told the lawyer, and he said, "that figures" and went back to his work. I asked aren't you going to sue him? He said that smart lawyers never sue anyone themselves, it's much more profitable to sue for other people. He told me to make sure to pay taxes as if she was a contractor, and turned back to his work obviously not wanting to be disturbed again.

        So two ambulance chasing lawyers would probably just file insurance, and be done with it :).

        • by Mikkeles (698461) on Friday October 30, 2009 @02:19PM (#29926811)

          'He told me to make sure to pay taxes as if she was a contractor, ...'

          This being embezzlement and all, there's a good chance that no income was declared. By you filing a tax form, the IRS would probably become extremely interested and start asking questions. An audit would not be pleasant for him or his wife.

          • by trdrstv (986999)
            It would be priceless to see the guys face when he gets hit with the 1099.
            • by networkBoy (774728) on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:03PM (#29928875) Homepage Journal

              I got stiffed on a contract job. Nothing big, ~$600 for install and config of 6 XP machines in an R&D lab.

              They decided not to pay, and it wasn't worth fighting for it (I'd lose more money in time spent fighting them than had I simply worked another job), soooo I filed a 1099 for lost income with the IRS and called it good. Basically the way the law is written, by declaring they owed me the money, then forgiving the debt I could use that $600 to offset $600 earned elsewhere and not pay taxes on it.
              The flip side is that their required to claim that $600 as income, and since they likely won't I have the satisfaction of them going through an audit.
              -nB

              • by zoloto (586738)
                This is exactly what you should do everytime someone stiffs you on a paying job. It *will* piss them off.
              • by IonOtter (629215)

                I'm quoting you on this in my journal. [livejournal.com]

                I've got a few friends who'll appreciate this.

        • That sort of makes sense: when you're the plaintiff, you can always lose, but as a lawyer, the only question is whether you can collect your fees.
        • by timeOday (582209)
          That is interesting. I have an uncle who used to work for EF Hutton as a stock broker (which is going back a few years, but you may remember their motto, "When E.F. Hutton Talks, People Listen." They were very prestigious at the time.) I asked him if, among the more wealthy brokers he knew, they made their fortunes on stock picks, or on commissions, to which he immediately replied "commissions." That told me all I needed to know about paying for their advice.
          • made their fortunes on stock picks, or on commissions, to which he immediately replied "commissions." That told me all I needed to know about paying for their advice.

            This is not entirely fair, because people are often advised against investing in a company (or even industry), where they themselves work. Doing so could, some day, result in a "double whammy" if/when your company goes down (or the entire industry gets into turmoil): you lose both your job and your investment.

            Similarly, a broker following his

            • More than anything, it tells me that the whole basis of the economy is upside down.

              In other words, we've all become mercenaries.

              Well, it does feel upside down to me. And standing on my head to look at it some more doesn't seem to straighten the moral issues out, either. It's kind of like the way economists torture the word "service" when they use it to describe the "service economy".

              • by mi (197448)

                In other words, we've all become mercenaries.

                1. (2) mercenary, soldier of fortune -- (a person hired to fight for another country than their own)

                Overview of adj mercenary

                The adj mercenary has 3 senses (no senses from tagged texts)

                1. materialistic, mercenary, worldly-minded -- (marked by materialism)
                2. mercenary, free-lance, freelance -- (serving for wages in a foreign army; "mercenary killers")
                3. mercantile, mercenary, moneymaking -- (profit oriented; "a commercial book"; "preached a mercantile and militant
                • 1. There is more to being human than just a focus on the material, monetary valuation, or the world itself.

                  2. What motivates the mercenary? What motivates the free-lancer?

                  3. Money is not the only profit.

                  And, as far as self-interest goes, when self interest exceeds certain bounds (ergo, when it becomes a euphemism for greed), if it ever was enlightened, it has become entirely unenlightened. Adam Smith knew this, and was focusing on two ways of looking at things to get the reader to engage his mind on the que

        • by SoTerrified (660807) on Friday October 30, 2009 @04:12PM (#29928281)

          He told me to make sure to pay taxes as if she was a contractor, and turned back to his work obviously not wanting to be disturbed again.

          Ok, that made me laugh. You just heard it as "Oh, you're not going to sue him, you're just going to let him get away with it? And all you care about is taxes are being paid?" But when I read it, I heard a smart lawyer saying it wasn't worth his time to go after the embezzler... But by declaring it on the taxes, he'd be raising a flag that the IRS could very likely investigate causing all sorts of problems. (It's highly unlikely the embezzler declared his embezzled income.) In other words, the lawyer quickly found a zero cost, legal way to get his 'revenge'. Tell me that's not worthy of a chuckle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Swanktastic (109747)

      Don't you think it was just his lawyer or union representative asking for the documents? I don't know how demotion hearings work, but I would imagine you get a little help from an expert.

  • by dijjnn (227302) <bwthomas@cs.uchi ... edu minus distro> on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:14PM (#29925917)

    From the desk of the Chief of Police:

    Effective immediately all precinct officers should destroy all electronic devices with central processing units. All document production will be performed using manual typewriters.

    • Effective immediately all precinct officers should destroy all electronic devices with central processing units. All document production will be performed using manual typewriters.

      And you think an old typewriter embeds less meta-information? Forensics can probably dig up a lot more, and it's much harder to fake or alter.

  • Cutting edge? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:14PM (#29925921)

    Quoth the lawyer:

    'This is at the cutting edge — it's the law trying to catch up with technology'

    So it's not really the cutting edge then, is it? It's the law only now trying to cope with decades-old technology.

    • Re:Cutting edge? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:19PM (#29925981)

      I think perhaps he was talking about it being the cutting edge of the law. Maybe. But probably.

      • I don't know whether to be more surprised that my state is actually the first to do something meaningful, or that the law is actually that far behind.

        • Arizona? I'd go with more surprised about the former statement.
        • Anyone who posts here should have access to enough evidence to already know that the law is even further behind than that.

          Electronic "evidence" is extremely easy to kludge together. Should not be allowed in courts.

          You can examine paper to find out what it's made of, and where it might have been made. Likewise ink. You can analyze handwriting in probabilistic terms. Etc.

          Noise is noise when you're trying to communicate a message reliably, but when you're needing to analyze the source of the data and such, noi

          • Electronic "evidence" is extremely easy to kludge together. Should not be allowed in courts.

            One could say the exact same thing about witness testimony. Evidence presented in court is not seen as incontrovertible fact, it's evidence in support of a theory. It's up the judge or jury to decide if the evidence is credible and relevant to the case. The ability to manipulate evidence is not unique to electronic media.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      So it's not really the cutting edge then, is it? It's the law only now trying to cope with decades-old technology.

      Most law enforcement systems are decades old.
      It wasn't until after 9/11 that serious $$$ started going towards modernization of records.

    • Re:Cutting edge? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:29PM (#29926107)
      Decades-old is bleeding edge as far as the law is concerned.
  • by davidwr (791652)

    Sooner or later you'll see departments classify "temporary working notes" as mandatory-shred items, and require all "permanent records" to go through some process that strips them of non-visible information.

    One relatively cheap way to do this is to print all documents to a digitally signed PDF or a graphics format. The digital signature is a bonus that authenticates the document.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then you would have a document time stamp, telling the lawyers this document was modified well after the incident. Prompting them to ask for the previous versions. Departments would be better served by not going back and altering records to support their actions.

      • Say my boss says "create a report on such and so." In the days of typewriters, I would've drafted a report, sent it around for review, had my secretary type up the final copy, and sign it and date it then file it.

        In recent times, I draft a report, send it around for review, correct it in place with metadata showing the history, then file it.

        The proposed method, which a lot of companies will do unless there's some law or rule saying they can't, is to draft the report, send it around for review, sterilize it

        • by Shotgun (30919)

          Most companies would not do this. Most companies would prefer to have an audit trail. Most companies are lawful (for the most part), or at least fearful enough of the law to be sheepish. They want an audit trail on documents so they know who to pin any transgression of the law on. Yes, your CEO will pin a lawsuit on you if it will save the company money.

          An audit trail could also be useful in an embezzlement or industrial espionage investigation. Companies of any size are not a homogenous conglomeration

          • If you are a small player have enemies at HQ and are fearful of a we-want-to-fire-you-so-we-are-auditing-you-to-nail-you audit wasting your time by calling into question every decision you made, you'll make sure only the things you want to wind up "on the record" exist on paper, and make sure any meetings and other decision-making processes that you want "off the record" stay "off the record"/oral only.

            If on the other hand if neither you nor the boss you like has enemies inside or outside the company and yo

        • And sterilizing the documents tells everyone that the company wants everyone to believe that the document's history is irrelevant.

          The document's history is the closest thing electronic data has to things like ink and paper chemical analysis. (Not to say that it even comes close to that, not to say that said electronic history can't be manipulated.)

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday October 30, 2009 @01:47PM (#29926335) Homepage

    So I want to know if they really were back dated. And if so, I hope his supervisor gets fired and that they re-hire this officer. And give him a medal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I know... as a resident of Arizona, I want an officer promoted who's intelligent enough to be aware of metadata, let alone its availability!

      Here's the Amicus Brief
      http://www.ananews.com/flyers/amicus_brief2009.pdf

      and the Oral Argument Case Summary
      http://www.supreme.state.az.us/argument/09Summaries/September%2024%20CV-09-0036-PR.pdf

  • The federal rules for civil procedure (FRCP) were updated in 2006 to address issues like this. Part of the FRCP is what guides production formats during civil suits. A lot of state courts are now using the FRCP as a guide for developing their own standards with regards to management of electronic data for legal purposes. This is the rule, pretty clear. http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/Rule34.htm [cornell.edu]

    Previously if you have 10,000 emails you could just print them out to loose piles of paper and turn over

  • If the guy was dishonest enough to backdate the document, he may very well backdate the metadata too.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      If it is a Word document. the creation date in the file is not editable. To change it would require bit editing the file which I doubt the supervisor could do. It is very easy to type a date into a document; not so easy to change the metadata. Even if it could be changed, one could probably go to a backup soon after the file was supposed to be created and notice that the file does not exist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by plover (150551) *

        What, you don't know how to set the clock on your computer back to June 1st, then fire up Word and type up the document? That amount of effort certainly doesn't take a techie or a fancy bit editor. It only takes a few drops of imagination. It's certainly within the skillset of your average cop.

        The only requirement is that you set the clock back before creating the new doc. It won't work to set the clock back and try to edit it after the doc has been created. But in that case you'd just have to create a

        • What, you don't know how to set the clock on your computer back to June 1st, then fire up Word and type up the document? That amount of effort certainly doesn't take a techie or a fancy bit editor. It only takes a few drops of imagination. It's certainly within the skillset of your average cop.

          The only requirement is that you set the clock back before creating the new doc. It won't work to set the clock back and try to edit it after the doc has been created. But in that case you'd just have to create another new doc and retype in the old text. It's no big deal, but when people are stressed out enough that they're forging "evidence" they're also likely in a rush, and may make a careless mistake.

          In many corporate environments (and much to my irritation at my USG job), only an administrator has the capability to adjust the clock/date. Doubt it is for the reason you mentioned, more likely to ensure job security.

  • Which do you think is cheaper, asking for a bunch of .DOC files as data put on a 25 cent CD, or an 8" stack of paper printouts?

    And then once you get 'em, you have the ability to run searches.

    Running up the costs by printing dead trees out is an old trick that can now be beat by asking for metadata.

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