U.S. District Court Warning Prompts Best Practices Guide On Metadata

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Workshare’s Free Guide on Critical Issue of Metadata in Court Submissions Includes Strategies on How to Find and Remove “Hidden Content”

It has come to the attention of the Court that Metadata (AKA Hidden Data) within Microsoft Office Word is not being removed from some documents prior to their conversion to PDF format for uploading to the Court CM/ECF server. Please be advised that Hidden Data can be retrieved from PDF documents if the data is not cleaned from the Microsoft Word document prior to conversion.

Workshare, the leader in metadata removal software, today makes available a Best Practices Guide to Removing Metadata in Court Submissions which discusses the challenges associated with cleaning metadata from documents and protecting organizations from the inadvertent disclosure of proprietary information.

While the problem of metadata remaining in Word and PDF files has been reported in the mainstream media for years, the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a new warning in February that metadata continues to remain in documents being uploaded to the court server and that such data may reveal damaging and confidential information; “It has come to the attention of the Court that Metadata (AKA Hidden Data) within Microsoft Office Word is not being removed from some documents prior to their conversion to PDF format for uploading to the Court CM/ECF server. Please be advised that Hidden Data can be retrieved from PDF documents if the data is not cleaned from the Microsoft Word document prior to conversion.”

Workshare’s free downloadable best practices paper explains what metadata is, how metadata may remain in a document --even if it is not visible or is hidden by black highlights for example-- and finally the best strategies organizations may employ to manage risk and confidentiality when it comes to sharing documents or converting them to PDFs. This is particularly important when documents are emailed or uploaded to court servers.

As legal teams review materials and forward documents electronically from person to person, metadata may be automatically generated revealing when it was written, the author, notes on size and word count and more. While this hidden content provides critical information about the files, it is rarely intended to be included in the final version of the document.

In fact, when a document with non-visible comments is sent outside an organization, perhaps to an opposing party during discovery, serious damaging consequences can result. Though non-visible, this information can almost always be recovered and the only way to avoid exposure is to actually remove the data from the original document.

“Organizations benefit when everyone is clear about what metadata is and why it is so risky,” explains Scott Smull, President and CEO of Workshare. “Workshare provides companies with metadata removal solutions to scrub metadata from Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint materials as well as review and clean email attachments and PDFs. However, it is also very important that companies rely not only on these technology tools to remove metadata but have the processes and training in place to be sure best practices are consistently followed.”

“Workshare has a long heritage of delivering leading technology to the legal industry,” said Matthew Brown, Vice President of Marketing. “We are pleased to deliver this Best Practices paper now, as the warning from the Court just last month reminds us once again that metadata in submitted court documents continues to pose significant risks for companies.”

The Best Practices Guide to Removing Metadata in Court Submissions is available as a PDF download at: http://www.workshare.com/downloads/whitepapers

About Workshare
Workshare, a company with a twelve-year history providing metadata removal and document comparison technology, enables organizations to control and manage information securely. More than one million professionals rely on Workshare solutions to increase productivity and safeguard their confidential information; ultimately securing their intellectual property, customer relationships and the organization's reputation. Workshare's comparison and collaboration solutions provide risk management and security to over 14,000 organizations worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.workshare.com.

All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their registered owners.

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