Breach of Privacy
If you post a Word document on your web site or send one via email then you might very well be letting the visitors/recipients know a lot more about you than you think.
- Most times when you save a Word document it doesn't actually save the entire document, instead it just adds a record of what has changed to the end of the file. This means that the recipient can easily find out what prior versions of the document said just by undoing those changes.
- A Word document also keeps a complete record of the name of everyone who has worked on the document and the location on their computer where it was stored.
- If the document contains images then the original location of the images and which program was used to edit the images is also available.
- The version of Word used to create the document is also recorded in the document as is which template was used as a basis for the document.
- If the document has ever been sent by email using Outlook then there will be email addresses stored in the document as well as the subject line that the email used.
Most of this information can be obtained from the document using Word itself. Just open the document via the File|Open dialog and set the "Files of Type" box to "Recover Text from Any File". File|Properties|Custom will also give you more info about what has previously been done with the document. Of course a lot of it can be obtained even by people who don't have a copy of Word just by opening the document in Notepad.
For these reasons you might want to think twice about loading Word documents to the web or attaching them to emails. If only the text of your document is important then why not convert the document to plain text before posting it. If the formating is also important then you should convert the file to portable document format (pdf) and post that. This latter option has the added advantage that it will appear exactly the same on all computers and does not rely on the recipient having the appropriate version of Word and all of the required fonts.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.