Topic: Science & Technology

Microsoft’s Fix

Metadata. It sounds like a computer-geek concept, and to some extent, it is. But it also is a big problem for Microsoft users in business and law. You see, meta-data is the information that you think you’ve deleted from an electronically transmitted Microsoft Word document…edits, changes, notes, earlier drafts. There is software that can recover this information, and people have used it to uncover secrets, ideas, and other things of value that the sender didn’t even know he had sent. There are law suits about meta-data, court cases, and legal debates. People have lost their jobs over it. One example: clever privacy experts were able to expose as a fraud a supposedly accurate British intelligence dossier regarding Iraq by examining metadata that showed that the document was a “cut-and-paste job” from three publicly available articles. Metadata isn’t a problem in Mac; it’s a Microsoft issue, and many of us cynically expected the company to make pretty penny on the inevitable software it was sure to develop to solve the problem.

But no. Microsoft’s new “Remove Hidden Data add-in for Office 2003 and Office XP”is free, as it should be. The company did the right thing. And for those who bemoan the sad state of corporate ethics, note this: the idea that companies should give away the new products that address flaws in old ones is very new. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison would have laughed at it. So while the ethics sky is still pretty cloudy in the corporate world, there are some rays of sunshine slipping through.

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