Dear SMFM Member:

It has recently come to our attention that software changes have enabled search engines to obtain and use personal identifying data from cropped images used in files that are posted and shared online. Please be aware that PDF files that are generated from Word, PowerPoint Keynote or other similar software may contain information beyond what is visible to the naked eye. Even when you crop the sensitive information and unless you permanently delete the cropped sections, online search engines have the ability to convert content into its original format and to make the redacted content searchable on the web. Dr. Alfred Abuhamad has worked with Google to help identify specific URLs that contain this sensitive information and to develop a process to delete them from web indexing.

Given the sensitivity of this issue, we recommend that you immediately take the following actions with your personal content:

Creating New Documents and Slide Presentations
When developing new documents and slide presentations, please ensure that you edit images and movie clips before embedding them into the documents and slide presentations. For images, this can be accomplished with the Snipping tool on Windows (search for Snipping tool in search menu) or the Screenshot option in Mac (press the 3 keys together to activate: Shift + Command + 4, or use the screen shot icon (camera) on the touch bar in the Mac Pro). Alternatively, you can use programs such as Adobe photo-shop, Snagit or others for this purpose. For movie clips, it is best to use a movie editing software to crop videos, before embedding them into slide presentations or other documents.

Permanently Deleting Cropped Information from Slide Presentations
This short movie shows how to permanently delete the cropped information in PowerPoint. You can apply this process to all your existing PowerPoint presentations to ensure that you have permanently deleted all redacted content. For Keynote presentations, you can convert the presentation to PowerPoint by the Export function in the file drop menu and then apply the steps shown in the Video to permanently delete the information. 

Find and Delete your Previous Work Online that May Contain Patient Identifiers
Search for any images and documents (PDF) on the Web using your name and/or the name of societies/organizations that you have given presentations or syllabi to, which may contain images and movie clips. The following are some steps and searches that you can use to identify any links:

a) Search your name and images
b) Search your name and PDFs
c) Search your name and institution and images
d) Search your patient’s name
e) Search your name and ultrasound software and images

If you find these documents, copy the respective URL and use this Google link: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9689846?hl=en to remove them from indexing.

SMFM is currently reviewing all images used within PDFs and PPTs posted on the SMFM website and Learning Management System. Some material may not be currently available during this process.

Please see this blog from Google for further information related to this serious issue.