Microsoft Office is the most popular word processing suite around, when it comes to generating documents. But a lot of people are completely unaware that, every time you open a document, type in it, edit it, close it, or do anything more than breathe on it, personally identifying data called "metadata" is collected and attached to the document. Disclosure of this information can be very detrimental in certain situations, so it pays to spend an extra few minutes before sending someone the file, to wipe the metadata. A free, small app called Document Metadata Cleaner will help you achieve this.
In much the same way that metadata in photos works, metadata in documents can tell you a lot about the history of that document. Things like when it was first created, who created it (or which organization), the last time it was edited, the name of the computer and server where the document is saved, names of previous document authors, the version number, and any document-embedded comments.
In a lot of cases, people won't care about this information being passed on. But there are certain situations where metadata like that should not be revealed to a third party. For example, perhaps you are a whistleblower, sending out an Excel spreadsheet full of incriminating financial accounts? Or perhaps you work in a lawyer's office and you need to send a document to opposing counsel? In these situations, being able to read the metadata and view the document's history would not be a wise development. Scrubbing this data becomes a must, and so a small lightweight desktop app like Document Metadata Cleaner becomes essential.
After installation, simply navigate to the folder or file that you want scanned. If there are various file formats, you can specify which formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) should be included or excluded. The program then lists the found file(s), along with all the attached metadata, so you can see for yourself, pre-scrub, what there is. Then it's just a case of checking the box for what metadata you want gone and pressing the button. Let it do its thing and before you know it, you'll have some nice clean files, free of incriminating / intrusive / private data, which can never be retrieved again.
One thing that I noticed while testing this software app was that it occasionally crashed (and Explorer along with it). I don't know if this was a result of loading too many documents or if there is a bug inside the software. The vendor was unable to replicate the error. It happened only a few times, so I am content to put it down to a gremlin in the system. For a free useful app, the occasional crash is no big thing.
It's very easy, in the rush to send out documents, to forget that this metadata exists. You could unwittingly revealing details which don't necessarily have to be broadcasted to the wider world. If you value your privacy or you work in a business where secrecy is paramount, then give this Document Metadata Cleaner a go.
Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.
This story, "Document Metadata Cleaner strips personally identifiable metadata from your files" was originally published by PCWorld.