Note: The Examine Document feature has been updated in Acrobat 9 to allow you to more granularly select and preview metadata. You may wish to watch this hour long Redaction and Metadata Removal eSeminar. Acrobat X offers an even more powerful “Sanitize Document” command.
These days, lawyers and their firms often think twice before emailing a file.
Does the document contain hidden information— metadata— that could lead to an accidental disclosure?
Office documents can contain hidden information that could be potentially damaging. Some examples are track change information in Word, comments, Title/Subject/Author keywords and so on. The list is long.
I should mention that the legal market very broadly defines metadata compared to other industries. To keep things simple, we’ll define metadata then as anything you can’t see in the document that could get you in trouble.
Large firms often use products like Workshare Protect, Payne Metadata Assistant or iScrub to clean Office documents before sending them out. If you must send out raw Office documents, this is a very good practice. Unfortunately, usage of these tools isn’t a universal, especially so among solos and smaller firms.
Some firms take a “PDF First” approach, preferring to send out PDFs. Comparatively, PDFs are benign compared to Office formats. Still, PDFs can contain “metadata” that could be an issue. For example, you might type damaging information an an Acrobat sticky note and send the document to opposing counsel.
There have been several instances of improperly redacted PDFs. In one document I examined, the author had used the Borders and Shading option in Word to cover up text and then converted to PDF. The text of course was still in the Word file and was also available when converted to PDF.
A knowledgeable user’s document practices normally prevent these kind of problems. However, even experienced users desire failsafe solutions.
Fortunately, Acrobat 8 adds a new feature called Examine Document which eliminates hidden text and other metadata from PDFs. Examine Document is available in both Acrobat 8 Standard and Professional.
Read on more more information about metadata, ways to remove it in a single document, and metadata removal in batch.