Metadata are data that provide information about other data. Two types of metadata exist: structural metadata and descriptive metadata. Structural metadata are data about the containers of data. Descriptive metadata use individual instances of application data or the data content. It is because of the latter that the New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by an open-government activist who contends that the public should be allowed to view electronic data and metadata kept by local government agencies. This interesting information came to us from in their article, “N.J. Supreme Court to decide if government metadata is public.”

In summer 2013, John Paff requested a log of the emails sent by the Galloway Township police chief and the township clerk during a two-week period in June 2013, and then sued in an Ocean County court when his request was denied. A judge in 2014 ordered that the information be released to Paff. The 2014 ruling was reversed by an appeals panel in March 2016.

“If the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse this, it restricts the public to a paper world while the government will be operating in an electronic world,” Paff said. Just days later, the Supreme Court decided to take up the appeal.

This brings up the question whether metadata is part of public record. It will be interesting to see how this evolves and what the New Jersey Supreme Court decides.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.