Tip: Remove Personal metadata from Files to Protect Your Privacy

Metadata within a file can tell a lot about you. Cameras record data about when a picture was taken and what camera was used. Microsoft Office automatically adds author and company information to documents and spreadsheets. With user-created tags, you can add personal and business details that might be useful on a local copy but are unwise to disclose to the wider world.

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To scrub a file of unwanted metadata in Windows 7:

  • Select one or more files in Windows Explorer.
  • Right-click and then click Properties.
  • Go to the Details tab and click Remove Properties and Personal Information.

This opens the Remove Properties dialog box. You now have two choices. The default option creates a copy of your file (using the original file name with the word Copy appended to it) and removes all properties it can change, based on the file type. The second option, Remove The Following Properties From This File, allows you to select the check boxes next to individual properties and permanently remove those properties from the file when you click OK. (If no check box is visible, the property is not editable.)

Of course, common sense should prevail when it comes to issues of privacy. This option zeroes out metadata, but it does nothing with the contents of the file itself. You’ll need to be vigilant to ensure that digital photos and other documents don’t contain potentially sensitive data.

From the Microsoft Press book Windows 7 Inside Out by Ed Bott, Carl Siechert, and Craig Stinson.

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