It's always good to be humbled by conference attendees and have to admit, "I don't know."
That happened last week as we were lecturing for the Virginia State Bar and someone asked, "How do you scrub metadata on a Mac?"
I felt a little better when I went to my friend and legal tech colleague Brett Burney, one of the nation's foremost lecturers on Macs. Even he had do some research! But the results were most helpful and I share them here:
"Alas, there is no metadata scrubber specifically for the Mac, which means many Mac-using lawyers have cobbled together various methods for cleaning their digital documents. Most legal-related documents created on the Mac come from Microsoft Word 2008, Pages (from Apple's iLife Suite), or other various word processing applications available for the Mac.
First and foremost, many folks just simply convert a document to PDF, especially since that feature is built-into the Mac operating system (i.e. no need for a full version of Adobe Acrobat). Converting a document to PDF gets rid of most, but not all, of the metadata piggybacking on a document.
Next, some savvy metadata detectives will go into the properties of a document and manually delete any revealing information. To automate this process, I've heard of über-Mac-geeks who create an AppleScript or Automator Workflow to do the same thing.
The really thorough crowd will actually send a file into a Windows virtual environment (powered by Paralells - (http://www.parallels.com) - or VMware Fusion - (http://www.vmware.com/products/fusion/), use a proven scrubber such as Metadata Assistant (http://www.payneconsulting.com) or the free Doc Scrubber (http://www.javacoolsoftware.com) to clean the document, and then send the document back to the Mac side.
One last possibility comes from a company called 3BView, which graciously offers a free, online service for scrubbing your documents, located at http://trial.3bview.com/3BTrial/pages/clean.jsp. The site is a tunnel for driving additional traffic to 3BView's site where they sell a beefier version of their metadata cleaning application, but the online service serves a good purpose. You can only upload one document at a time, but you can select if you want all metadata cleaned, or just the potentially problem areas of track-changes and embedded notes (regularly found lurking in Microsoft Word documents).
I found that 3BView's online service did a great job of erasing the metadata, but they left a convenient note in the "Comments" section of my Microsoft Word document mentioning who did the dirty work. You can erase the comment of course, but it's a little annoyning - much like the fact that there is no native application for scrubbing metadata for the Mac."
Thanks Brett, for making me a little smarter. I would have asked our friend Ben Stevens to chime in too, but I think he's off honeymooning, which is far better than discussing legal tech on a blog!
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