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Perils of MS Word

An article about how a Microsoft Word document revealed the authorship of a government document. Oh, boy, Blair must have thought. We didn’t want anyone to see that! Fortunately, Microsoft wrote a good knowledgebase article about how to remove metadata from MS Word. Ok, I’m an advocate for privacy and am having a good laugh at Microsoft’s expense. But shouldn’t metadata be public? Isn’t that the point–describing the document in an open and readable way? The difference here is that a MS Word document is a binary file; it is not a self-describing document (at least not until the next version of Office, which I understand will be entirely XML-based, though pretty much incomprehensible to ordinary humans).

It is also an instance of where a software company adds a feature without stopping to think of the consequences. They never asked themselves, “gosh, would most people want document tracking and authoring metadata to be easy to find?” If you haven’t already, look at Richard Stallman’s We can Put an End to MS Word attachments.

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