I published an article this morning called Photographs and their metadata help scuttle a shipping insurance claim about the court’s use, in a case from England and Wales, of what the judge called the “metadata” from photographs taken of the ship.
I should perhaps have called this post “Metadata scuppers scuttlers”. Or perhaps “EXIF data scuppers scuttlers”.
The title of the post was flawed, even before you get to the outcome of the case and technical questions about the proper term for data attached to photographs. Scuttling is something you do to yourself (or, strictly, your ship), not something which is done to you by metadata or by anything else. The post will already be in Google’s indexes and I don’t intend to confuse Google by changing the post’s title.
Whilst I don’t regret using the word “metadata” – it is what the judge used, it is what the rules use, and it is not incorrect technically – I am obliged to James M Turner QC for the reminder that there is a more technical term for the data attached to photographs. Mr Turner knows a great deal about shipping disputes and knows also about photographic data (he also, incidentally, knows about Google’s indexes since James Turners abound at the bar, with and without “QC” after their names; this is the one from Quadrant Chambers who is on Twitter as @ShipBrief).
As to the case covered by my article, Mr Turner said this on Twitter: “The insurers paid out! The trial was about whether owners could reduce (“limit”) liability to cargo owners”. One of the very best things about Twitter is the ability to rub virtual shoulders with people who can supplement your knowledge on almost any subject.
As to the data stored by cameras, Mr Turner rightly observed that this is properly called EXIF data. That, of course, does not bar some or all of it from being also “metadata” within the meaning given in the Civil Procedure Rules in England and Wales and the equivalents in other jurisdictions. The footnotes to Practice Direction 31B CPR refer to “more extensive Metadata which may be relevant where for example authenticity is disputed”. EXIF data can be very extensive indeed.
If you ask Google for all it knows about exif + eDiscovery, you will find near the top of the results an article by me of 25 October 2013 on this very subject and called Using EXIF GPS information from a camera in eDiscovery / eDisclosure. That article, I now see, failed to mention the word “metadata”, as it should have done if I wanted it found by those searching for help on the discovery of camera data. My article of this morning did not refer to EXIF data. I have put both words in the title of this post to make sure that anyone searching for “metadata” will connect the terms.
Here is some of the EXIF data from one of my recent photographs (a plate of food since you ask). I stress that it is only some of the data – other fields record, among other things, that the copyright is mine, that I was in Berlin, that the altitude was 37.4 m above sea level, and that the Circle of Confusion was 0.004 mm (you can look up the latter for yourself). In the source application pictured here (SmugMug), clicking on “Map” takes you to the restaurant (well it doesn’t exactly teleport you there but you can see where it is – Restaurant Vau, which I thoroughly recommend).
You can see why I am keen on the idea that our photographs (this was taken with an everyday iPhone) contain evidence which may be useful in any type of case, whether matrimonial, personal injury or, as in the shipping case, commercial. The EXIF data goes far beyond the standard metadata expected (if you ask for it) on discovery / disclosure.
Furthermore, my Google Maps history will also show that I was at Jägerstraße 54-55, 10117 Berlin on that evening, and if you got discovery of my wife’s Google account you would see that she was there too. How useful would that be if the participants were not a respectable couple out for dinner after a conference but alleged conspirators who claimed never to have met?
The attraction of the photograph data is that you don’t necessarily need disclosure orders to get it – all you need is the photograph itself, which may be why the ship’s owners were keen to ensure that the pictures were not posted to a web site, and why the insurer’s lawyers were keen to get their hands on versions which included the ancillary data, whether called metadata (as the judge called it) or EXIF data (as a photographer might).