Ariz. court rules records law covers 'metadata'

Oct 29, 2009 By PAUL DAVENPORT , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Hidden data embedded in electronic public records must be disclosed under Arizona's public records law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case that attracted interest from media and government organizations.

The Supreme Court's unanimous decision overturned lower courts' rulings and is one of the first decisions by a state appellate court on whether a public records law applies to so-called "metadata" - data about data.

Metadata can show how and when a document was created or revised and by whom. The information isn't visible when a document is printed on paper nor does it appear on screen in normal settings.

"It would be illogical, and contrary to the policy of openness underlying the public records law, to conclude that public entities can withhold information embedded in an electronic document, such as the date of creation, while they would be required to produce the same information if it were written manually on a paper public records," Justice Scott Bales wrote.

A Washington state appellate court ruled last year that metadata in received by a city's deputy mayor was a public record under Washington's public records law.

Unlike Arizona's public records law, the Washington law specifically says the data is subject to disclosure. That case is pending before the Washington Supreme Court.

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 of the records but said he wanted the metadata to see whether the supervisor backdated the notes to before the officer's demotion.

Upholding a trial judge, the midlevel state Court of Appeals in January ruled 2-1 that metadata doesn't constitute a public record subject to disclosure requirements.

When the officer appealed, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns filed a brief citing burdens of complying with requests for metadata and urging the justices to uphold the lower courts' rulings. The Associated Press and other media organizations filed briefs asking the court to rule that the public records law applies to metadata.

---

The case is Lake vs. City of Phoenix, CV-09-0036-PR.

On the Net: Arizona Supreme Court: http://www.supreme.state.az.us

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Judge rules in Palin e-mail case

Aug 12, 2009

(AP) -- A judge ruled Wednesday that the Alaska governor's office can use private e-mail accounts to conduct state business, as former Gov. Sarah Palin sometimes did.

Court Denies Vonage Bid for Patent Case Retrial

May 04, 2007

A U.S. appeals court denies a request by Internet phone company Vonage Holdings that it order a retrial in the patent infringement case brought against it by Verizon Communications.

Court won't revive Va. anti-spam law

Mar 30, 2009

(AP) -- The Supreme Court will not consider reinstating Virginia's anti-spam law, among the nation's toughest in banning unsolicited e-mails.

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

Aug 26, 2014

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 0