Metadata is information Word implants in every document to illustrate its origin and illuminate its change history. Current metadata includes any and all comments, document properties (including author history), email headers, annotations, track changes revisions, and routing slips. There are occasions where metadata can be helpful, but more often than not the existence of metadata files on a document being distributed is the beginning of a disaster. Jim Calloway, an early and prescient muse on metadata, in 2009 used an example where an embedded comment was included in a document sent to the opposing party. The comment, “Notes. Client is desperate to recover something and not face the PR disaster of receiving nothing at trial. Offer $100K. But get it settled before end of month even if we have to take half that.”
The ethics committees of 14 bar associations have weighed in so far, most placing varying emphasis on the need for the originating attorney to make certain that metadata has been removed prior to distribution or filing. The Florida Courts Technology Commission has told attorneys they are responsible for stripping all the metadata from e-filed documents to protect their clients’ confidential personal information. Court clerks have gone further, submitting a proposal to require attorneys to indemnify them for any damages resulting from the inclusion of metadata in files documents.
Donna Marino, with The Florida Bar Foundation, suggested at The Florida Bar 2015 Convention that we take our metadata scrubbing efforts an extra step. TheFormTool PRO and Doxserá already scrub all of their metadata when documents are Petrified prior to distribution. Donna asked whether we could expand the function to include ALL metadata. We listened to Donna and did just that. TheFormTool PRO v2.9b and Doxserá 2.3b, at the user’s option, will remove all metadata automatically and transparently from documents they create. Here’s how.
On the menu bar, select Options>Metadata scrubbing. When offered the option to turn metadata scrubbing On, click Yes. From that point on, all metadata in intelligent documents created on this machine will be automatically scrubbed during Petrification.
The process can be reversed just as easily.