O’Neill v. City of Shoreline – Metadata

The Supreme Court recently affirmed that metadata is a public record.  However, a normal public records request for an e-mail does not include a request for metadata unless metadata is specifically mentioned and requested.  This case is a good reminder of the dangers of using personal computers for city or agency business, as the Court held the City of Shoreline violated the Public Records Act if (1) the City (or the Deputy Mayor) refused to search the Deputy Mayor’s hard drive for the missing metadata that was requested; (2) the City could not locate the missing metadata after a search; or (3) located the metadata, but the metadata was different than the metadata already disclosed pursuant to the requests.  In addition, this case is a reminder that public records, including associated metadata if requested, cannot be deleted when a records request is pending.  If you have any questions about public records management or retention, please contact your city attorney. 

The O’Neill majority opinion is available to view here.

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