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Another victim of Word ‘metadata’

It’s so easy to avoid being caught by Word’s hidden data, yet it still happens.

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Rep. Jay Inslee from the US House of Representatives is the latest victim of the ‘hidden data’ in a Word document.

He released a letter of support for the FCC Chairman, unfortunately the document made it clear that the letter was actually written by an advocacy group.

We haven’t seen Rep. Inslee’s letter but it seems that it contained Word file properties like an author ‘Ben Scott’ and company ‘Free Press’ instead of something from Rep. Inslee or someone on his staff.

Politicians of all types and from any countries use information from supporters, advocates, lobbyists. The surprise is that the ‘pollies’ and their staff aren’t more careful about scrubbing these details from outgoing documents.

There are various terms in use, we prefer ‘hidden info’ since it best describes the idea of information in a document that’s not immediately visible. Microsoft prefers ‘metadata’ because it sounds more technical and is perceived as deflecting blame from the company.

Whatever you call it, every Office document has various details beyond what you can see on the screen. These details are in various places most notably the File | Properties (File | Info in Office 2010)details like the author and company.

Office 2007 and Office 2010 have an ‘Inspect Document’ option to check for ‘behind the scenes’ information. The Remove Hidden Data tool for Office 2003 and Office XP is a free download from Microsoft.

Readers of our Privacy and Security in Microsoft Office ebook will find complete details of all places where information can hide  as well as how to remove these details.  Check out page 31 onwards of Privacy and Security in Microsoft Office

Article posted: Tuesday, 11 May 2010

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