My last tech tip for your legal nurse consulting business was to clean it up, and my recommendation was to blow it out – your keyboard and air vents, that is. Today we’ll look at some different aspects of cleaning up for your CLNC® business. This time it’s your data, not your dust.
Every document, PowerPoint® presentation and photograph you create or edit personally or as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant contains what is known as “metadata.” Metadata, or hidden data in Microsoft®-speak, may include information about the file in which the metadata is included – in other words it’s data about data and may contain information about the quality, creator and/or characteristics of the data it’s contained in. Try this: open Word, click “Open” like you’re opening a file. Then single left click on any file followed by a single right click. In the menu that pops up scroll to the bottom and left click “Properties.” That shows you the underlying metadata telling you when the file was created, edited, who authored the document and when the file was last accessed.
Let’s say you use a legal nurse consulting file template created by someone else to create a document. Are you the author? Not according to the metadata. The author, should we look into the document properties, is the person who created the template – not you. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if an attorney-client asked you who really wrote your report and someone else’s name showed in the Properties as author?
There are ways to avoid this. If you’re using Office 2007 you can inspect the metadata included in any document, clear it out and edit in the “correct” information (or you can choose to delete it). Simply open a Word document. Click the “Office Button” in the upper left corner then click “Properties” to see the simplest metadata. You can edit this to include your correct information. If you really want to get advanced, click “Document Properties” above the display of properties to see all the editable types of metadata you can store on a document. Another way to see the metadata is to close the document, navigate to the document in your Windows® Explorer (not Internet Explorer®) then right click on the document and left click on “Properties.” Now, left click on “Summary” in the “Properties” tab and then, click on “Advanced.”
Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has also given us a couple of ways to remove the metadata when you finalize a document. If you’re using Vista, it allows you to do it simply by bringing up the Properties box and the metadata can be cleared from there. In Office 2007, to clear out the metadata, open the Word document you wish to take to the cleaner. Click the “Office Button,” click “Prepare,” then click “Inspect Document” (if it asks you to save the document, do so) then click “Inspect.” The results box will show the different types of information stored in your document. You can then click the “Remove All” button by each type of information to remove that info. Reinspect the document and you’re ready to send it – without the metadata.
Almost every Microsoft Office 2007 document, PowerPoint and Excel document can be purged in this manner. If you’re using Office 2003/XP, there is a plug-in available from Microsoft to remove metadata just like Office 2007.
Beside Word documents, CLNC® consultants routinely send out contracts as Adobe® PDF documents rather than Word documents so as to be sure that the party receiving them cannot edit them. Adobe PDF documents also contain metadata that can be removed or edited prior to sending. Simply open the document with Acrobat, click File, then click “Properties” and you can edit the data. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat® 8.0 or higher to do this (or a third-party application).
If you’re not scared enough by your legal nurse consulting documents, wait until you see what’s hidden in your digital photos! Try this. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to any photo stored on your hard drive. Right click on the photo to select it and in the menu that pops up, scroll to the bottom and left click “Properties.” Now, left click “Summary” in the “Properties” tab and then, here it is, left click “Advanced.” You may see the date the photo was taken, the type of camera, whether a flash was used and more information. Some of the newer digital cameras can even add GPS data to tell where a photo was taken. Think about that next time you snap a vacation pic – if you like the spot you can always use your GPS to navigate back to the exact spot the photo was taken (and so can anyone who you share that photo with via email or on the Internet).
Luckily there’s a simple application named JPEG & PNG Stripper that you can download and install on your computer. It does exactly what its name implies and strips the metadata from your photos. This is mandatory before posting them on the Internet or sharing them with friends/family (because they can be shared ad infinitum).
Metadata isn’t as persistent as you’d think but if you’re not aware of it you may be giving away more information than you wish to when you give away your documents and photos. Time to take steps to stop the sharing.