Google's eBay glitch shows importance of checking your metadata

It's not surprising that Google decided to make a submission to the ACCC over eBay's controversial plan to make PayPal the sole payment method available on the site. It's not surprising that Google asked that its name was kept off the public version of its submission. And sadly, it's not surprising that — as a great story at AuctionBytes reveals — an Australian eBay user, David Bromage, managed to deduce Google's involvement by looking at metadata attached to the PDF file. But is it possible to avoid those kinds of problems?

After you've finished laughing at this example of incompetence, it's worth remembering that it's really not too hard to avoid unwanted information going out in attached documents, even if you're not seeking ultimate anonymity. While the details will differ depending on your preferred office suite and file format, the basic steps are always the same:

* When you've finished creating a document, select it all, copy it and paste it into a new file. (That way, any revision-tracking or changing features will be eliminated.)

* Check the file properties (generally under File —> Properties or Edit —> Properties, though this varies according to package) and delete any information you don't want included.

* Save the file in a suitable format. I often favour RTF — everything can read it and formats are retained, but edit history isn't, and the fles are more compact. If you don't want the file to be edited, standard PDF is a sensible choice. If you don't want the file identified easily, don't include your company name (this is where the Google problem arose).

* After saving and closing, locate the file in your preferred file management tool (Explorer or whatever), right-click and check its Properties, just to ensure that other random details aren't attached. Remove anything incriminating or unwanted.

If you've got any additional useful document anonymity strategies, tips or queries, let us know in the comments.


    There's a fuller version of the story here:

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now