The use and impact of metadata in civil cases


  • Denise Russo Hudson Valley Community College, SUNY
  • Abebe Rorissa University of Tennessee, Knoxville



Metadata, Civil Cases, Data Mining, Cybersecurity, Government Surveillance, Third Party Doctrine, Social Media, Embedded Data, Civil Law, Federal Law, Cookies, Tagging, NSA, 4th Amendment


This article is one of the first to explore and delve into the legal system, with a focus on the burgeoning use of metadata in civil cases. Although metadata is embedded in all kinds of digital files including text, audio, and image files, as well as many social media and game applications, few understand how both the visible and embedded information is being “mined” (collected) for a myriad of uses by organizations, such as, Google or even the United States government. Consequently, in this paper, we explore the implications of metadata use in civil cases and how it could bring a new era of evidence in litigation, which has huge ramifications for how the average citizen may begin to view their privacy in the course of everyday activities.

Author Biographies

Denise Russo, Hudson Valley Community College, SUNY

Denise Russo is an Instructional Content Developer in the Department of Distance and Online Learning at Hudson Valley Community College, SUNY. She has taught at the graduate level at UNC-Greensboro, Adelphi University and St. John’s University as a Clinical Supervisor and Lecturer with expertise in linguistics and English as a Foreign Language. She is also serving as a Trustee for the Board of the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society. In addition, she is a Project Archivist via her company, InfoSpeak Consulting. Her research interests focus on the historical, multilingual and legal aspects of metadata creation and usage.

Abebe Rorissa, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Dr. Abebe Rorissa is Professor and Director of the iSchool at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Before his current position, he was Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Development in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity, University at Albany, SUNY. He also worked in Ethiopia, Lesotho, and Namibia as a lecturer and practitioner and consulted for academic institutions, national governments, and international organizations on various topics including information and communication technologies as well as information organization. He has published extensively in leading international journals such as the Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology — JASIS&T, Information Processing & Management, and Government Information Quarterly. He was a member of the Board of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) and its Executive Committee, and a recipient of the ASIS&T Watson Davis Award for Service and SIG Member of the Year Awards. As of 2 November 2021, he will be the President-Elect of ASIS&T.




How to Cite

Russo, D., & Rorissa, A. (2021). The use and impact of metadata in civil cases. First Monday, 26(8).