What is document metadata
Metadata is data about the digital document it is attached to, such as the author of a document, when it was last updated, the software used to create or save the document etc.
Most digital documents contain additional hidden data known as meta data, which stores information such as who created the document, what the document is about, any comments about the document and many additional pieces of information depending on the document type and the software used to create or modify it.
Exchangeable image file format data aka EXIF meta data is information about a digital image. This can be anything from the resolution and amount of colours in the image to the type of camera used to take the picture and on what day and at what time, or the software used to create the image.
What are the security implications of meta data?
We create digital content all the time and we email it to colleagues, post it on Facebook, store it, and so on, but we don't really think about the hidden data in these documents because we either forget that it is there or never knew that it was there in the first place.
If you look at the properties of a digital file using various applications, you will be able to see this meta data. You can see the name of the person who created it, maybe even where they work if they created it on a work machine. You can see what type of camera they own if the file is a photo image file, and what days and time that they appear to be away from home taking pictures.
In other words you can profile an individual just from the meta data stored in the files they create.
If you don't need or use meta data in textual documents then set the properties to generic defaults (unless you wish to identify yourself as the owner / creator of a particular document). That way you need not worry that somweone will discover that you wrote a particular document that you don't wish to own up to creating.
If you are distributing images that you took and you don't want anyone to know what camera you were using and when you took the photo then use image editing software that allows you to change the EXIF metadata.
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Article date: 4th February 2011