We’ve all hit ‘send’ on an email just as we realized the document we’ve attached had one comment we forgot to accept before sending it; or realized we’ve sent an email attachment to the wrong person after Outlook has automatically completed an email address. Sharing documents through email can be risky.

But it’s not just what’s on the page of the document that’s risky. More alarming is all the hidden data, or ‘the anatomy of a document’ we are inadvertently sharing, even when it’s the correct document and the right recipient. It’s called metadata and Workshare’s on a mission to help people understand it, and avoid it causing problems.

All hidden data was originally conceived to make it easier to track changes, record who had done what, and to find documents. No one argues that metadata isn’t useful when used properly and with an appropriate level of awareness. However, such a rich variety and volume of information in a document can reveal more than we would want to share. In Workshare’s experience, up to 70% of documents are recycled – starting life as a copy of another document. People tend to base a new document on a similar document that already exists, and then make edits. If we are billing a customer for a custom report or proposal, we do not want the origins of a document to be revealed (especially if the first version was for a competing company or made by a junior member of the team, clearly labelled as “author” in the track changes). If something that we actively decided not to include had been deleted but actually remains in a tracked change, it could be extremely damaging if the recipient sees it.

It’s potentially a little abstract to understand what document metadata is and how we should deal with it – even for IT professionals. There are degrees of risk and removal strategies associated with each individual type. We have created an ’What is a Metadata Infographic that aims to cut through the complexity and present a very clear view of what each type of metadata is, and what we recommend you do with it. We used a “traffic light” indication of how risky each type of metadata is – low, medium, or high – so that those of you in IT can put in place removal strategies, and the rest of us can work how we want to without the risk of inadvertently leaking sensitive company data.

Let us know what you think of the ‘What is Metadata’ Infographic either below or via Twitter.

Watch Workshare Interactive Protect Video to see how metadata is stripped from documents.

Dave Ewart Headshot  3