Personal Data Microsoft Office Collects and Shares About You

Personal Data Microsoft Office Collects and Shares About You

Why You May Be Over-sharing Through Your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Files

Metadata is hidden personal information captured in your documents—even though you may have never told programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and others to collect or share it.

This collected information can be elusive because it does not print or show up on your screen when you view the main document interface. Furthermore, some information may appear to not be included unless you actually type it in (such as Author, Subject, or Document Title) yet may be alluded to in other types of metadata. 

Here are 12 examples of document statistics and user information that Could be readily available to more than yourself, as well as links to what you can do about it!

1.  Your Author Details

Microsoft Office programs may reflect information about you, and the computer that is an extension of you, including your name or initials, your computer or device’s name, company name, and network information as mentioned in steps 10 and 11 of this list.

2.  Other or Previous Author Details

The names of previous authors of that document may also be available by default. Collaborators are likely referenced as well, as mentioned in step 8 of this list.

3.  File Properties

The file itself is also described in metadata, including file type. Document properties and statistics such as how long you have worked on the document, when it was last saved, when it was originated, and other usage information may also be available.

4.  Document Versions

When you save Office documents, you typically want past versions to stay in the past! But some version information may be viewable by others.

5.  Templates Used

I actually like this one because it gives credit to those who authored the template, but depending on your project you may not want this displayed.

6.  Personalized Views and Invisible Objects

Office documents allow you to make some content hidden, such as Hidden text, Hidden Rows or Columns in Excel, Off-slide Content in PowerPoint, Presentation Notes, and more.

You may not realize that items in the workspace can be inadvertently referenced in the metadata.

7.  Watermarks

Company watermarks can indicate document status such as “Denied” or “Draft”. You may not want others to see even hidden watermarks in metadata

8.  Comments

Not just comments, but also names of revisers, tracked changes, version information, and inked comments or annotations.

Also, Send-for-review information may show as well.

9.  Headers and Footers

Typically, you include headers and footers because you want them to be visible, but sometimes this information is intended for internal eyes only. Email headers may also be accessible.

10.  Document Servers or Libraries

Documents saved to a remote server or library such as SharePoint may also reference that location information in the metadata.

11.  Printer and File Paths

Paths tell Microsoft Office where to send or save your files on your computer or network. This could include hard disks or portable storage devices.

This can also involve your file path for publishing web pages from Microsoft Office.

12.  Other Custom XML Data and Information

Documents can contain other custom Extensible Markup Language such as tags.

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