Why removing metadata is a must.
Metadata can haunt the files you share each day, while you remain blissfully unaware of its presence. The thing is, it could give you a nasty shock were it to be revealed in the wrong place or to the wrong people.
Most of us are oblivious to the metadata contained in the files we’re preparing and it can be useful stuff, but, because it’s not obviously visible to authors and reviewers, it has the potential to embarrass or, at its worst, do serious damage.
Metadata can consist of anything from comments, tracked changes, revision marks, and document properties, to personal information, such as an author’s name, a company’s details, timestamps, headers, footers, watermarks and more. Getting rid of metadata when a file is circulated or shared can often be for your own good.
Here are the top five reasons why:
1. Mum’s the Word
Microsoft Word is essentially the mother of all word processing applications, so she’ll look after us, right? Surprisingly, misuse of Word’s “track changes” feature is one of the most common causes of hidden metadata escaping the family.
Most users don’t realize you must accept changes and then turn the tool off before attaching the document to an email in order to avoid that moment of despair when you realize you’ve just sent something out that you definitely shouldn’t have.
2. The BIG reveal
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), who regulate practice in England and Wales, say a lawyer shouldn’t reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client consents to it themselves. Therefore, accidentally sending a client’s details in the metadata contained within an email attachment is a contravention.
Beyond this, the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, will raise the stakes higher, with potential fines for those who (even inadvertently) share personal data pertaining to EU citizens without their permission.
3. Rabbit in the Headlines
The media love a good data blunder, so it’s preferable not to give them one to talk about. Metadata can be a powerful weapon in the wrong hands, and email is the smoking gun. There are numerous instances of metadata “shaming” large firms and government bodies alike. Only last year, a large pharma retailer left track changes in a document that was emailed to a national newspaper with embarrassing consequences.
4. Skinny files with that?
If you’re still not concerned about sending out personal data to others, the fact that metadata adds extra "weight" to your files might convince you. Metadata, especially that of image formats, like JPEG, is often held in a separate file, which results in the unnecessary use of valuable bandwidth.
5. You won’t feel a thing
Data protection is definitely something to keep in the front of your mind when sharing files if you want to cover your back. In an age where technology is part of daily life, it’s easy to get complacent about sharing data, but sifting through every detail is time-consuming and prone to human error, so automatically removing metadata is obviously the best way forward.
And there you have it. If you're interested in taking this further...