General Question

Soubresaut's avatar

Help me fix my metadata confusion?

Asked by Soubresaut (13714points) July 7th, 2017

A few questions. I tried to ask them as concisely and clearly as possible, but I’m not sure I succeeded. Please ask for clarification as needed!

1. Say you created a PDF document on date x.xx.xx, but you sent that document through email on date y.yy.yy, and the recipient got the document on date z.zz.zz. What date would be read in the metadata on the recipient’s computer?

1. b. In what scenario(s) would/could the recipient read the creation date as “x.xx.xx”?

2. Say you download a document from the cloud. The document was put up on the cloud on date a.aa.aa. What is a way/are ways that you could read the creation data as a.aa.aa?

(If you happen to be wondering, yes, this question is inspired by a recent topic in the news. I am just trying to understand this one piece, because this piece doesn’t make much sense to me, but if you think it’s easier to answer by referencing details from news stories covering the topic, feel free to do so.)


(PS—I am apparently able to ask questions through the main Fluther site again! Yay!)

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4 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

first, let’s not deal with A, B, and C. They are too abstract.

Let’s deal with MM DD YYYY (month day year).

Let’s also assign the following values:

1) the PDF was created on your computer on 4/23/2015
2) it was emailed to someone on 4/27/2015
3) it was SAVED from the email box to the desktop on 4/29/2017

Windows would display the following:

Date Modified 4/23/2015 (assuming you didn’t edit the PDF once it arrived)
Date Created 4/29/2015

The email transmission is not relevant.

Now… cloud providers do not necessarily follow Windows date management protocols, so if the document was posted and downloaded from the cloud, anything can happen.

Soubresaut's avatar


I didn’t realize that metadata date and timestamp protocols wouldn’t be consistent across platforms. That might be why I’m confused.

Question 1 was based off a report where a journalist received a document through what I’ve understood was email.

Although they got it on 4/27/2015, and saved it on 4/29/2015, the metadata creation date they have shared reads: “4/23/2015,” four days before it was sent to them, six days before they (presumably) saved it to their computer to look at.

I tried emailing myself a document just to check, and I get the download date and time as metadata creation date info…

So a follow up question here, if that’s okay: How would they be able to get or access the earlier metadata date?

Question 2 was based off a report where a journalist discussed a document they had put on the cloud, let’s say on 5/3/2015. They stated that anyone who took the document down from the cloud would have that original creation date in their copy of the document, no matter when they downloaded it.

Again, I tested that myself, and again I got my download date and time as the metadata creation date.

The little bit of research I did about metadata led me to understand that it’s based on the creation of a location for the data, not on the creation of the data itself—which means every copy or move of a document would cause a new creation date. Is that only the case for windows?

I also found a files management software that apparently gives users the option to preserve the original metadata date, as well as what I think was a more computer-savvy way to do so through a terminal… So there are ways to preserve the original metadata, but they require someone deliberately choosing to do so, right?

Ultimately, I know this is a tiny detail that doesn’t matter that much… But all the same, I don’t like not being able to follow it…. Thanks for your earlier post, and an extra thanks for any following response!

Soubresaut's avatar

Maybe never mind. I used a different browser and was able to look at the PDF metadata in browser, without downloading, and I got the reported earlier metadata dates for everything…. Even the PDF I had downloaded and then attached in an email to myself, which is a little confusing since on my desktop the creation date is different. But I guess metadata dating protocols are just inconsistent, like you suggested. Thanks again!

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