PDF In-Depth

EDITORIAL: Joost "leaks" partnership plans

May 24, 2007


Due to a security-related faux pas, it seems that Joost has inadvertently "leaked" details of its strategic planning.

First broken by Pete Cashmore at Mashable, the story goes that an employee of online video service provider Joost wrote a PowerPoint presentation, overlaying images on what looks like an older set of presentation notes that included a list of Joost's planned content partnerships. The employee then converted the whole thing into PDF, perhaps believing that the enhanced security capabilities of the format would protect the sensitive information. Another possibility is that the employee thought that the PDF conversion would be analogous to printing it, where, by and large, if you can't see it on-screen, it won't be printed. While the text would not have been immediately apparent to those viewing the document, the resulting PDF contained the original, sensitive text beneath the image-based presentation slides.

At least, that's the dominant theory.

Frankly, I'm somewhat skeptical of this account. Past leaks due to improper use of PDF security and/or inadequate metadata scrubbing have revealed truly sensitive confidential information such as victim names or details of ongoing litigation, resulting in red faces in high places. The list -- and what a list it is -- is 61 names strong, with highlights including Warner Music, Sony, EMI and CNN International. Far from souring in the warmth of the spotlight, the document makes arguably the world's hottest internet start-up look, well, even hotter.

Add to that the fact that (now-defunct) links to the presentation appeared in Joost's own forum, and things start to smell decidedly fishy.

In order for the information to have leaked into the presentation in the first place, its author would need to have overlaid presentation images on top of the sensitive information without thinking to delete it first or create a new PowerPoint file. Even if the apparent copy-and-paste job was done to retain standard company style elements such as borders etc, it still seems strange that the sensitive strategic information was not first removed.

As Cashmore notes, "The data appears to be from March 2007, but many of those deals haven't happened and/or haven't been publicly announced yet." With that in mind, an accidental "leak" of such exciting information could be just the catalyst required to set the 'net abuzz with speculation. To put all of this in perspective, however, Cashmore also points out that we can't be certain that the document has not been subject to tampering by a third party. The list could be just so much smoke and mirrors: the result of a hoaxster's whim. One thing's for certain, though, regardless of the source: if the list is accurate, the future looks sweet for Joost.

More information on Joost can be found on Joost.com.

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