Today the Washington Supreme Court reached into our home computers and pulled out our metadata for public inspection. Metadata is hidden information about an electronic document. It can be very revealing (and sometimes embarrassing). For example, e-mail metadata might show dates the mail was sent, received, replied to or forwarded, as well as blind carbon copy information (how many of us have used the bcc function), and more. Today, in O’Neill v. City of Shoreline, the Court decided that metadata associated with a private citizen’s e-mail that was forwarded to the Shoreline Deputy Mayor was subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. This is a 5-4 decision – now tell me that your vote doesn’t count in electing our judges. Going further, the City is able to inspect the home computer of the Deputy Mayor in searching for the pesky metadata. The Court says that an inspection of the home computer is appropriate because the Deputy Mayor used her home computer for city business. The dissent argues, “I do not believe that what is contained on the hard drive of a public employee’s personal home computer, whether it is deemed ‘metadata’ or something else, is a public record.” The dissent offers us common sense. The majority provides a legal home invasion. What do you think?
Read the majority opinion at http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.disp&filename=823979MAJ and then review the dissent at http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.disp&filename=823979Di1