Many documents including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint contain “hidden” information known as metadata.
Some types of metadata are harmless and useful, while other types can provide others viewing or working on your documents with information you may not want them to know. It’s been estimated that more than 90% of all documents are created and sent out electronically for review and revision with little thought to what might be in them other than what is visible to the naked eye.
Each time you create or edit a Word file, certain types of hidden information are stored and travel with the document. This can include a list of the last ten authors, changes that have been made to the document as well as the name of the attached template, custom document properties and much more. Many users have been incorrectly led to believe that saving a document as a PDF file will remove the metadata or make it invisible.
The most common way to reduce your risk of exposure is by using a third-party “scrubbing” tool that integrates with e-mail and document management software. Microsoft also offers a free, but unsupported Remove Hidden Data utility that is available from their website which can help identify the risks. For more information regarding metadata risks visit metadatarisk.org or contact me at 800.232.8913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.