Metadata - Usage and Security Concerns
17 March 2014
Metadata is data that describes another piece of data. Metadata can be found in almost every type of digital files, such as your pictures, music, video files, word documents, presentation slides, and spreadsheets, and many more. Most devices that we use in our daily life, such as computer, camera, and smart phone also embed metadata in digital files they create by default.
Examples of metadata embedded in digital files are:
- The data and time the file was created and last modified;
- The username and organisation of the creator of the file;
- Information of the device and its configuration which creates the file;
- GPS coordinates where the file was created, etc.
Metadata Security Concerns
Some people may intentionally embed metadata such as their name and organisation for copyright purposes; or GPS coordinates in photograph images to remind them it was taken. However, you should be aware of these metadata when you are working in a sensitive or confidential environment.
Metadata may inadvertently reveal sensitive information about yourself, your organisation, or any other details you do not want to share with others. Bear in mind that when you have shared digital files with metadata embedded in them, you have no control where it would end up, and what it could contribute to in the future.
Identifying and Removing Metadata
It is important to identify and consider the privacy impact and sensitivity of the metadata embedded in the file before sharing it with other people. Consider modifying or removing these metadata before sharing it.