Leaks of hidden data cause concern

By | February 13, 2006

When the New England Journal of Medicine used a word-processing function to reveal that Merck & Co. had deleted study data about Vioxx and heart attacks, the pharmaceutical giant joined a long line of organizations bitten by information lurking in electronic files.

It´s happened to no less than the White House, the Pentagon, the British prime minister´s office and the United Nations.

Each time, making minor electronic adjustments to documents aired juicy details not meant for public disclosure — such as the true author of a file or sensitive data hacked from a final draft.

The pitfalls of such hidden “metadata” have been long known in computer-savvy circles, but these high-profile leaks are driving new efforts to keep a lid on metadata.

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