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Mining the Metadata

Last night, before I publicized the referral of the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse to the IRS, I double checked that the name of the complainant, redacted in the PDF file uploaded to Scribd, was well and truly redacted, and not lurking1 somewhere in the document properties, what is called the “metadata.” The name was totally removed, and I republished the document without worry.

However, when I was in there, I found one interesting bit in the document properties, and that was that the document was created by Adobe Acrobat Pro Version 9. The professional edition of Adobe Acrobat is somewhere around $200 more than the standard edition, and it adds features that high-end users need and home users like myself don’t. One of those pro features is the ability to remove sensitive material from a document, redaction. The pro version is targeted at, among others, law firms, so it reinforces my feeling that a practicing lawyer filed the complaint against the MSCOCCP.

I wanted to verify that the Acrobat version is a characteristic of the PDF file uploaded to Scribd and not something Scribd does, and to test that I downloaded a few other documents. One from Jerry Collette was created with OpenOffice.org. One from attorney Mark Herron defending the Florida Democratic Party in the Voeltz case was created by Adobe Acrobat 10 (version not indicated) — I know it’s from Mark Herron because his name appears in the metadata as author.

This leads us finally to the Voeltz Complaints. The  “Second Amended Complaint” in Voeltz v. Obama was created by a PDF software package called iText, while Microsoft Word 2007’s “save to PDF” created the “Amended Complaint”. What is interesting about the “Amended Complaint” is that it, like the submission from the Florida Democratic Party, has an author name in the metadata, and the name is not Larry Klayman as one would expect. I got all excited that I had uncovered a bit of hidden information that might lead to an interesting discovery. Alas, no. The name in there is the CEO of a company called U.S. Legal Forms, and I presume that whoever wrote the complaint just used a template2 from that company and didn’t change the author in the metadata. I won’t mention the name because of the site policy against publishing the names of non-public persons, in case I have misconstrued the significance of the author information.


1I learned the name of Orly Taitz’ dental practice, Appealing Dentistry, from metadata in one of her documents.

2U. S. Legal Forms sells a multi-state “Complaint regarding Defamation, Fraud, Deceitful Business Practices” for $12.95. I didn’t see anything specifically for birther lawsuits.

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26 Responses to Mining the Metadata

  1. avatar
    Thrifty June 25, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I don’t know a thing about the differences between Acrobat Standard and Pro, but I always kinda figured I should. I’ve worked in technical support, and one of my duties was installing software. People would request Acrobat Standard or Acrobat Pro. The people in my department knew there was a difference, and that Pro cost more, but nobody could figure out why well enough to tell people “No, you’re not getting the Pro version.” We probably wasted a lot of money that way. Same thing with Microsoft Visio.

    On the other hand, we wasted a lot of money installing either version of Acrobat (or either version of Visio) at all. In the vast majority of cases, people wanted Acrobat Standard so they could turn documents into PDFs, and they wanted Visio so that they could read the Visio files created by other people. Well, there are several easy to use and completely free programs for transforming documents into PDF format. There’s also a free Visio Viewer program that Microsoft specifically designed so that a full version of Visio wouldn’t be necessary.

  2. avatar
    The Magic M June 25, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    > The pro version is targeted at, among others, law firms, so it reinforces my feeling that a practicing lawyer filed the complaint against the MSCOCCP.

    Or someone who simply downloaded an illegal copy off the internet. 😉 [Just mentioning it because I’ve grown quite allergic to jumping to conclusions after 3+ years of watching the birther way of construing “evidence”…]

  3. avatar
    y_p_w June 25, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Thrifty: I don’t know a thing about the differences between Acrobat Standard and Pro, but I always kinda figured I should. I’ve worked in technical support, and one of my duties was installing software. People would request Acrobat Standard or Acrobat Pro. The people in my department knew there was a difference, and that Pro cost more, but nobody could figure out why well enough to tell people “No, you’re not getting the Pro version.” We probably wasted a lot of money that way. Same thing with Microsoft Visio.

    I think it might be useful for password protecting a document when sent through email. Any version of Acrobat can be used to decode a password, but I think you need the Pro version to encode.

    However, I use a Mac. I can always re-save a document in Preview and specify a password.

  4. avatar
    JPotter June 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Thrifty: I don’t know a thing about the differences between Acrobat Standard and Pro, but I always kinda figured I should.

    Well, if you trust Adobe’s run-down:
    http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/matrix.html?promoid=JQCSB

    Standard is fine for everything except print publication from PDFs, and higher end media items. I use Acrobat X Pro here at work.

    y_p_w: I think it might be useful for password protecting a document when sent through email.

    Nah, standard can also manipulate security settings.

    One thing I have discovered recently on a project involved collaboratively-completed forms … Reader is an absolutely worthless piece of software.

    __________

    “Appealing” Dentistry? Yikes! What an unfortunate and terrifying name, sound-wise. I picture gums being flayed Hellraiser-style.

    And yes, “redaction” is pretty awesome. When people see it, they tend to assume a visual “band-aid” was applied, but no, it scubs that data out of every aspect of the file. Very simple and powerful. Use it everyday.

  5. avatar
    richCares June 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    If you have Micosoft Word installed then install Acrobat Pro, Word will have a new menu option “Adobe PDF”, a very good PDF convertor which allows conversion of Hyperlinks as well. Great for building catalogs with Hyperlink indexes. Many PDF writers can’t do this. Allowing a user to jump to more details from a Hyperlink index is really cool for PDF catalogs.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    There’s probably a lot of corporate software purchased that’s not needed. I remember one guy wanted to have a copy of Adobe Acrobat to create PDFs from Microsoft Project. I told him to use a free PDF printer driver that I pointed him to. He wanted the real thing, until I pointed out it took like 20 minutes to generate the PDF in Adobe and 1 using the other thing. (I think I have those details right).

    It’s great that most of the Microsoft Office suite (except Project back when) can create PDFs natively. And of course OpenOffice.org (free) creates PDFs too.

    Microsoft project is another expensive piece of software that’s overkill for some users. You can build a project plan and print a Gantt chart using simple and free stuff. Project does a heck of a lot more than that, but most folks don’t how to use it.

    Last time I looked, there were quite a few versions of Visio. One of them lets you reverse engineer databases and if you need that feature, it’s well worth the money (or buy something else). Visio Standard (which I own) is pretty basic right out of the box, but you can do an Org chart easily (but then you can do an Org chart in other tools too).

    Thrifty: There’s also a free Visio Viewer program that Microsoft specifically designed so that a full version of Visio wouldn’t be necessary.

  7. avatar
    Thrifty June 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    MS Project was a piece of software that I never understood at all, but it was also one of the times we actually put our foot down on software pricing. Nobody got Project unless they were one of the groups that we knew actually created…. whatever the hell it was that Project created (project timelines, I guess). We installed some viewer program for everyone else. Oddly, the viewer program was NOT free, though it was pretty cheap.

    Another program we used at that company was called Brava Reader. It was used to view TIFF and PDF files. The kinds of files that were passed around were helicopter schematics which came on big, wide, high resolution files. I think the dimensions of the files made it easier to read with Brava.

    Anyway, Brava was free if you used the trial version. Except the trial version was limited license and you’d have to reinstall every 6-8 months. We could never convince management to upgrade to the permanent version. And about 500 people used this software. Consequently, I had to send out a scripted uninstall/reinstall every 6-8 months. Because they wouldn’t spring for the permanent version (which was only like 20 bucks a pop).

    But handing out copies of Adobe Acrobat like they’re Chicklets, that’s totally cool.

  8. avatar
    JPotter June 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: It’s great that most of the Microsoft Office suite (except Project back when) can create PDFs natively. And of course OpenOffice.org (free) creates PDFs too.

    One advantage Office files have over PDFs is the ability, in Windows, to be labeled or tagged. Very handy for file organization. Of course this is possible because the OS and Office file format are coming from the same place. Adobe and MS aren’t playing together that well together. If anyone can recommend a good file sorting utility, I could use one for PDFs. And I know many others that can, too!

    Doc, you mentioned Project. I haven’t used it in 8 years, a new client strongly “prefers” it. Has it improved much? The Office suite has made leaps and bounds since 2004. I am hoping to find a greatly improved Project as well.

  9. avatar
    justlw June 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    My procurement story: I filled out a purchase request for dBase II (yes, this was a while back), and our state purchasing guy unilaterally changed it to Lotus 1-2-3, since it was on our approved list and its marketing blurb said, “Sure, you can use this as a database.”

  10. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I haven’t used project since 2010 when I retired. The version I used was probably 2007. I really didn’t get very far into Project and its extensive features, so I’m the last person to make a recommendation. However, my impression at the time was that Project lagged behind the rest of Office (for example it couldn’t create a PDF at a time when the rest of Office could).

    What I learned was that most people use MS Project wrong. Real people do lots of things in a day. If they only have one hour in the day to work on the “project” then the Project plan will represent one day’s effort in order to make the days come out right. That overinflates the resource requirement. What they need to do is put in a fractional resource — but you have to know how to do that and so folks end up using Project like a spreadsheet that prints a Gantt chart.

    A simpler alternative is the free GanttProject software. It does the basic stuff and can make a Gantt chart. It can also open Microsoft Project files.

    JPotter: Doc, you mentioned Project. I haven’t used it in 8 years, a new client strongly “prefers” it. Has it improved much? The Office suite has made leaps and bounds since 2004. I am hoping to find a greatly improved Project as well.

  11. avatar
    Reality Check June 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Your purchasing guy obviously never scrambled a spreadsheet by accidentally doing a partial sort.

    justlw:
    My procurement story: I filled out a purchase request for dBase II (yes, this was a while back), and our state purchasing guy unilaterally changed it to Lotus 1-2-3, since it was on our approved list and its marketing blurb said, “Sure, you can use this as a database.”

  12. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Acrobat Standard will do that too.

    richCares: If you have Micosoft Word installed then install Acrobat Pro, Word will have a new menu option “Adobe PDF”, a very good PDF convertor

  13. avatar
    richCares June 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    “Acrobat Standard will do that too.”
    Acrobat X standard does, however Acrobat Reader (the free one) does not.
    all versons of the Reader do not.
    compare them here
    http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/matrix.html?promoid=JQCSB

  14. avatar
    wild bill June 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    I can’t comment much on the tech discussion, but I will note that another thing most sizeable law firms have is a program that automatically scrubs out metadata when sending attachments via email.

    Semi-related, I once received a letter from opposing counsel that showed the unredacted redline version of the letter, including some interesting notes and the line (that was supposed to be removed): “so you can stick that up your [a**] Mr. [Wild Bill]”

  15. avatar
    JPotter June 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: A simpler alternative is the free GanttProject software. It does the basic stuff and can make a Gantt chart. It can also open Microsoft Project files.

    Thanks for the input Doc. I have seen GanttProject. The client is only interested in the file format, so I may be able to skate by on the cheap. More likely, the company will buy Project, and then we’ll never use it for much. We already have a production management system, the last thing we need is a redundant system … which mean we’ll inevitably wind up with a redundant system! 😉

  16. avatar
    JPotter June 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    wild bill: Semi-related, I once received a letter from opposing counsel that showed the unredacted redline version of the letter, including some interesting notes and the line (that was supposed to be removed): “so you can stick that up your [a**] Mr. [Wild Bill]”

    I hope that found its way into court, or at least some negotiation!

  17. avatar
    bgansel9 June 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    JPotter: “Appealing” Dentistry? Yikes! What an unfortunate and terrifying name

    She KNEW from the beginning that her lawsuits were going to be rejected. 😛

  18. avatar
    y_p_w June 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    JPotter: Nah, standard can also manipulate security settings.

    One thing I have discovered recently on a project involved collaboratively-completed forms … Reader is an absolutely worthless piece of software.

    As many have figured out, I was really thinking of Adobe Reader and not Acrobat.

    It’s not a full fledged system, but there are nice features for PDFs that are standard in Mac OSX. Is it really worth paying extra just to be abled to scan a document as a PDF and password protect it?

  19. avatar
    JPotter June 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    y_p_w: Is it really worth paying extra just to be abled to scan a document as a PDF and password protect it?

    I take your question to be, “Is it worth paying extra for a full-fledged copy of Acrobat?”

    If all you need is the ability to add a password prior to emailing a PDF, and Preview is meeting your needs, then of course it isn’t worth it to pay for Acrobat. If you have further needs now or in the future, that’s a different question. I’m happy to give advice if you need it.

  20. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    I don’t know all there is on the subject, but there are any number of PDF passwords crackers out there. Some pay, some free, some web based. I have successfully used some of them, especially where the security let you read the document, but not copy from it or turn it into a Word document. If you want security get an program with strong encryption. If I recall 7-Zip offers strong encryption (compression + encryption + free).

    JPotter: If all you need is the ability to add a password prior to emailing a PDF, and Preview is meeting your needs, then of course it isn’t worth it to pay for Acrobat. If you have further needs now or in the future, that’s a different question. I’m happy to give advice if you need it.

  21. avatar
    Thrifty June 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Every time I see Orly’s dental practice, I think of the dentist on The Simpsons.

    JPotter: “Appealing” Dentistry? Yikes! What an unfortunate and terrifying name, sound-wise. I picture gums being flayed Hellraiser-style.

  22. avatar
    Andrew Vrba June 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I’d rather get a root canal from a Proctologist.

  23. avatar
    SluggoJD June 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    bgansel9: She KNEW from the beginning that her lawsuits were going to be rejected.

    LOL that’s good!!

  24. avatar
    Thomas Brown June 25, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    Thrifty:
    Every time I see Orly’s dental practice, I think of the dentist on The Simpsons.

    Not “Little Shop of Horrors”?

  25. avatar
    nolu chan June 25, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPQ7KMCrPLE

    Marathon Man
    Drilling for facts

  26. avatar
    Keith June 26, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: A simpler alternative is the free GanttProject software. It does the basic stuff and can make a Gantt chart. It can also open Microsoft Project files.

    I carried around a my personal copy of IMSI “TurboProject” for years, over 15 projects across at least 10 years. I used it for short term organization of my programming team, not grandiose multi month organization of all 400 people in the project. I could read or dump MS Project files as needed (well I could read MS Project files that were in older formats anyway).

    The guys that insisted on MS Project came in two flavors: either they spent 6 hours a day updating their plan, or they hired an entire section of project planners who they tried to get me (and the other project leaders) to update their monster instead of executing it.

    I remember once going to a planning meeting where the entire project plan was being revised because one of the sections was behind. It happens, no problem, but then they needed to take 4 days to completely revise because the sponsor was starting to get cold feet. On the 3rd day when it came to give my presentation on what I needed to get hit a particular milestone, I told ’em nothing because I was already 2 milestones beyond it, and if they had been paying attention to the plan updates they would have know it. Turns out they had given up on the old plan a month earlier when the other section was starting to slip, and concentrated on reorganizing and preparing for the new plan. They were just far to complicated to be flexible. It turns out that most of the stuff the slow section was doing wasn’t as critical to the rest of the project as they thought and if they hadn’t wasted so much time obsessing about the slippage, they might well have caught up anyway. Planning is great but sometimes you just have to get out of the way and let people do their jobs.

    TurboProject came as part of a IMSI “Business Pack” that I couldn’t have spent much on, maybe $10 back in 97 or something. It also had TurboCAD Pro(which I used twice I think), and a bunch of stuff I never used or even know what it is: “FLOW”, “Solid Modeler”, HiJaak PRO, Formtool 97.

    TurboProject was more than capable of handling small projects and project teams.