Thursday, 29 October 2009

SWISS red-faced over metadata information left in press release

Whatever your view on where we are on the economic road to recovery (or not) no business can afford any tarnish to its external image. As reported in the Guardian this week Swiss International Air Lines Ltd has a red face and a tarnish to its image in Canada at least due to an inadvertent link of metadata.

SWISS, as they refer to themselves in the press release, included review comments in the document that they sent out. Although the press release might be 'boring,' as reported by the Guardian, it provides a salutary lesson on how features that are useful in the review stage of a document can be a danger if they are not managed correctly when completing the final version that will be sent out.

The file, comments and all, can be found on the Guardian website.

Companies need to remember that converting a document to PDF alone does not protect them from leakage of confidential or embarrassing information via metadata. Although I was not personally sent the press release, and it is not obvious from the posting on the Guardian site, I would say that the release was sent in PDF. Take a look at the other metadata in the PDF file and see what you think (PDF Producer: produced on a Mac, author: initials in this instance, and so on).

This is the perfect example of why it is so important to ensure you have a system in place to automatically remove the metadata information within a document. While the data contained in this file wasn’t damaging to the company, it was definitely embarrassing. Had the data been company private, this could have been a very different situation for them. Make sure your company and your data is protected.

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