Daniel Barr, a partner in Perkins Coie Brown & Bain‘s Phoenix office, was sitting in a dentist chair during an appointment last year when he read an e-mail update on his BlackBerry about an obscure public records case. The issue: Should metadata, the information that reveals the history of a document, be considered a public record like most other government documents?

A state appeals court in Arizona said no earlier this year in denying a police officer access to performance reviews written by his superiors, but the state Supreme Court reversed the decision Thursday in what is believed to be the first metadata ruling from a state’s highest court, the Associated Press reports. The officer at the center of the case suspected his superiors had backdated the negative reviews so it would appear that they were written before his demotion. Such data is not included in the final performance review. To find out who accessed the document when, the officer needed to see the metadata.

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