What do Justice Samuel Alito, Merck Pharmaceuticals, and the United Nations have in common? They were all embarrassed by the revelation of hidden information they did not know was contained within documents they published. (In Merck’s case, of course, it was much worse than mere embarrassment, as metadata played a key role in establishing their culpability in the Vioxx case.)
Workshare, a leading provider of document management applications, has created an outstanding primer on the dangers of hidden information in electronic documents. With its many examples of real-life, high-profile screw-ups, and its up-to-date reference of legal opinions on metadata liability, it’s worth five minutes of your time.
And here is another great resource targeted specifically to law firms:
A recent ABA Newsletter article, Is My Document Secure Enough?, which includes a list of metadata removal tools appropriate for a range of law firms from solo and small firms to the AmLaw 100.
While the much of the buzz about digital mishaps has centered on social media in the last few years, the potential for significant problems resulting from “old-fashioned” metadata remains a far greater threat for most attorneys and law firms. Whatever size your firm, you need to have clear policies, and effective, applied procedures in place to protect yourself and your clients.