Metadata management and protection in a law firm's workflow

Published on April 24, 2014 by Corinne
What kinds of metadata pose a risk to law firms if inadvertently released? The kinds of metadata you didn't even realize were  included in the document you just sent out. Metadata is often routine and benign, but when it’s not, and if it’s accidentally released outside the firm, the consequences can range from embarrassing to legally catastrophic. Information in PDF metadata can indicate where the file was stored on your firm’s server, in a folder called “Problem Clients” for example. Or it can contain an internally relevant tag or comment you thought you had deleted – such as “client is willing to settle at any cost.” Metadata is “data about data.” Narrowly defined, it is data about a document that is inserted into the document (e.g., Word documents) without the author’s knowledge or permission, including information concerning the document’s editing history (authors, revision time, etc.), location on a firm’s server, length, and so forth. A broader definition includes information that users intentionally insert, such as track changes (editing history) and comments (whether hidden or not). In the past, courts have ruled that metadata attached to a public document is also public. Simply converting documents to PDF format does not remove all metadata - in fact, it can add some. Since most documents today are transmitted via email, you need a tool that will pop up whenever you attach a file to an email message and offer to remove the metadata. This is why DocsCorp has developed new metadata management software — cleanDocs Desktop —which enables organizations to better protect themselves and their clients from accidental information and metadata leaks. The need for a technological approach to metadata cleaning is undeniable. The variety and volume of metadata is only increasing with each passing year and with increased sophistication in cross-functional software workflows. As mobile devices enter the mainstream legal workflow, metadata cleaning becomes even more intensely needed – and it needs to be fast. cleanDocs provides law firms with the best of both worlds -- cleaning for desktop PCs and for smartphones/tablets (the latter coming soon). It is also blisteringly fast, cleaning documents at the binary level of more than 100 metadata types in MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents. IT administrators need to be able to set company-wide policies, and to also give users some flexibility based on their tasks and trust level. cleanDocs gives control, speed and security. Metadata issues will remain and in fact increase in scope as more collaboration tools embed comments and other “metadata” information in documents. Furthermore, courts are increasingly likely to rule that metadata in a discoverable document is equally discoverable, so it is particularly important that the only metadata included in your documents is metadata you were aware of.