Embedded Metadata: From Sight, From Mind


[author: Rob Hellewell]

Just about everyone has produced a brand new file utilizing an old one like a template. Although we save the file within separate, new name, the embedded metadata in the old file, for example tracked changes or comments in Ms Word, hidden rows or posts in Microsoft Stand out, or speaker notes in PowerPoint, is frequently transported over, possibly revealing private or proprietary information. Three prominent examples spring to mind:

  • An initial-year affiliate from the prominent law practice mistakenly uncovered hidden posts within an Stand out spreadsheet as he converted the file to PDF format, adding 179 additional contracts towards the assets Barclays had decided to buy included in a personal bankruptcy buyout of Lehman Siblings.
  • The hidden text hidden inside a complaint software company SCO Group filed against DaimlerChrysler divulged the substance of allegations from the prior complaint drafted against Bank of the usa.
  • The Un printed an investigative report in Ms Word format attributing the murder of Lebanon?ˉs former pm to anonymous government people however, readers could access revisions towards the document that disclosed what they are called of responsible Syrian government and military officials.

Some kinds of metadata are usually extracted during discovery processing and conversion however, embedded information is frequently only contained in the initial native file. Thus, it can slip with the cracks and become unwittingly distributed to opposing parties, revealing the mental impressions or technique of lawyers and decision makers and potentially waiving the protections from the attorney-client privilege or work-product doctrine. Although accepting revisions in document drafts lessens the chance of tracked changes, savvy reviewers might be able to recover a document?ˉs revision background and rebuild its earlier versions.

Unless of course document reviewers particularly search for embedded metadata and have software that flags its presence, there’s no good way to notice that a document contains hidden information. Quite simply, reviewers cannot find these details by analyzing a static picture of a document rather, they have to evaluate the file inside a native application.

Purchasing an e-discovery application using these features is important in managing the chance of unwittingly discussing or omitting embedded metadata. Otherwise, this invisible data could compromise your organization?ˉs legal position, result in the lack of the lawyer-client privilege, or produce a breach from the ethical responsibilities of competence and confidentiality.


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