♫ Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light…♫
Lawyers today are concerned about metadata and not transmitting same to another lawyer or their own client when they electronically send a document.
Most of us use “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word when working on a document to note the changes/additions/deletions done by others. Once that process is over, the typical next step is to agree to the changes in the document to produce a non-red-lined version ( or ‘clean copy’) as it is known.
Speaking for myself, the way that I usually do this is by clicking on ‘accept all changes’ – and then saving the document – thinking that this turned off track changes and revered the document to an ordinary Word document. By way of further security, we can use a metadata removal tool (such as Payne Consulting’s Metadata Assistant) or by converting the Word document to a PDF.
Just the other day I finished collaborating on a Word document… accepted all changes…. saved it… and sent the ‘clean copy’ to my collaborating colleagues — one of which was just down the hall. She said to me: “Why did you send me a version still showing all the tracked changes? I thought you were sending out a clean copy?”
I looked at her screen and indeed — what was displaying was the ‘tracked changes’ version. I immediately went back to my desk, opened the document, ensured that ‘accept all changes’ had been done, re-saved the document and emailed it again… only to see that a red-lined version was again open on her desktop.
I then went looking on the Internet and found a Microsoft web site that speaks to this issue. It advises:
If you know that you want to accept all the changes, click the arrow next to Accept Change, and then click Accept All Changes in Document. If you know that you want to reject all the changes, click the arrow next to Reject Change/Delete Comment, and then click Reject All Changes in Document. To remove all comments, you must delete them. Click the arrow next to Reject Change/Delete Comment, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.
The only problem with this advice from Microsoft is that in my case, it didn’t work. My colleague should have only seen any comments in the document that had not yet been deleted. Instead, she saw all of the track changes, notwithstanding that I had ‘accepted all changes’ and then saved the document.
This brought home to me that the only reliable way to ensure that the tracked changes cannot be read is by using a metadata removal tool (such as Payne Consulting’s Metadata Assistant) or by converting the ‘clean copy’ to a PDF.
Anything else and someone may be able to see your changes by the dawn’s early light…