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Issue 41 | September 2016


This newsletter includes information to help lawyers reduce the likelihood of being sued for malpractice. The material presented is not intended to establish, report, or create the standard of care for lawyers. The articles do not represent a complete analysis of the topics presented, and readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.
Removing hidden personal data (metadata) from Word documents

Potentially privacy-compromising metadata can be easily cleaned from a Microsoft Word document. When sharing electronic copies of files, it is a good idea to remove hidden data or personal information that may be stored in the document or the document properties before sharing with others.

Metadata isn't immediately visible when viewed in Word, but it is possible for others to view or retrieve comments from reviewers, revision marks from tracked changes, details about the author, date when a document was created, headers, footers, watermarks, hidden text, or even custom XML data.

Microsoft offers a free "Document Inspector" for removing hidden data or sensitive information before you share a Microsoft Office file. To remove metadata, simply open the Word document you want to share.

Word 2016, 2013, 2010: Select the ‘File’ tab and click ‘Save As’ to save a new copy of your original document (use the Document Inspector on a copy of your original document, as it is not always possible to restore the data once it is removed). In this new copy of your original document, select the File tab > Info > Check for Issues > Inspect Document. Click to select the types of hidden content you want to be inspected, and press the ‘Inspect’ button. Click ‘Remove All’ next to each type of metadata that you want to remove from your document. Use this newly inspected copy of the document to share – do not share the original.

Word 2007: In the copied file, click the start button (top left corner), Prepare > Inspect Document. You’ll be prompted to save a copy of your file since you will not be able to restore hidden information after deleting. If metadata is found, simply click the ‘Remove All’ buttons next to each type of metadata, resave your ‘cleaned’ document, and share this version (not the original).