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A tale of two documents

I have a twitter search for Ed Vaizey, the MP that represents me, partly because of an interest in libraries (he is also the minister responsible for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries, the portfolio into which libraries, in part, apparently fall), but mainly because I wondered if he would ever tweet anything more significant than comments on eurovision…

edvaizey_tweets

But things got a little more interesting when I checked the search today, with references to freedom-of-information requests and super-injunctions from Alexander Hanff, populating the stream.

edvaizey_references

Intrigued, and with a spare moment or too while I checked the washing machine repair had worked, I did a little digging to find that this was related to the UK response to the European Union e-Privacy directive, and specifically Article 5 Part 3 of that directive which states:

3. Member States shall ensure that the use of electronic communications networks to store information or to gain access to information stored in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned is provided with clear and comprehensive information in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, inter alia about the purposes of the processing, and is offered the right to refuse such processing by the data controller. This shall not prevent any technical storage or access for the sole purpose of carrying out or facilitating the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network, or as strictly necessary in order to provide an information society service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user. 

Or in other words, Member States shall ensure that web sites that use cookies to store information in your web browser offer the right to refuse those cookies.

As The Register reports, the deadline for implementation of the directive passed on May 26th (yesterday) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had issued an Open letter on the UK implementation of Article 5(3) of the e-Privacy Directive on cookies which was available at http://www.dcms.gov.uk/images/publications/cookies_open_letter.pdf.

I say was, because when I looked the letter had disappeared. The original six page document, authored by DCMS, created by printing to PDFMarker 9.1 for Word  and last modified at 15:39 and 31 seconds BST on May 24th was replaced by a one-page document, authored by Nikki Miller, created by Word 2010 Save as PDF and last modified at 09:59 and 17 seconds BST on May 25th.

Here’s a dump of the PDF objects from the two versions of the document published at the URL. Incidentally, I know the document changed because I had the original open, but unread, in a Google Chrome tab which when refreshed loaded in the one-page blank version.

Original document (copy received from @alexanderhanff, matches the text in HTML version stored in Google’s cache):

250 0 obj
<<
  /Author (DCMS)
  /Company (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)
  /CreationDate (D:20110524153841+01’00′)
  /Creator (Acrobat PDFMaker 9.1 for Word)
  /ModDate (D:20110524153931+01’00′)
  /Producer (Adobe PDF Library 9.0)
  /SourceModified (D:20110524143830)
  /Subject (Open letter on the UK implementation of Article 5\(3\) of the e-Privacy Directive on cookies)
  /Title (Open letter on the UK implementation of Article 5\(3\) of the e-Privacy Directive on cookies)
>>
endobj

One-page version (copy obtained by downloading from http://www.dcms.gov.uk/images/publications/cookies_open_letter.pdf):

7 0 obj
<<
  /Author (MILLER NIKKI)
  /Creator (\376\377\0M\0i\0c\0r\0o\0s\0o\0f\0t\0\256\0 \0W\0o\0r\0d\0 \02\00\01\00)
  /CreationDate (D:20110525095917+01’00′)
  /ModDate (D:20110525095917+01’00′)
  /Producer (\376\377\0M\0i\0c\0r\0o\0s\0o\0f\0t\0\256\0 \0W\0o\0r\0d\0 \02\00\01\00)
>>
endobj

Note that in the second case “Author” contains the text entered as the author field in the Word document properties which can be overwritten in the Save as PDF dialog.

Update

While writing this post the original re-appeared. But is it the original? Here’s a dump from the latest version downloaded from http://www.dcms.gov.uk/images/publications/cookies_open_letter.pdf:

211 0 obj
<<
  /Author (DCMS)
  /Company (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)
  /CreationDate (D:20110524153841+01’00′)
  /Creator (Acrobat PDFMaker 9.1 for Word)
  /ModDate (D:20110525100051+01’00′)
  /Producer (Adobe PDF Library 9.0)
  /SourceModified (D:20110524143830)
  /Subject (Open letter on the UK implementation of Article 5\(3\) of the e-Privacy Directive on cookies)
  /Title (Open letter on the UK implementation of Article 5\(3\) of the e-Privacy Directive on cookies)
>>
endobj

 

It looks like this is a new PDF document, but from the same source document version (compare the values for SourceModified and CreationDate highlighted). Odd. But then a diff of the two versions shows no changes to the text of the document, for instance the swith typo is still there and, although there are differences at the file stream level, these are not substantive.

Tools

There are a number of tools that can be used to analyse PDF document content. In this instance I used Enfocus Browser and the PDFshow and PDFextract tools included with MuPDF. Differences in content were checked with Adobe Acrobat.

Conclusion

None really, only the old chestnut that you can never delete anything on the internet, and trying just highlights the original.

Tagged on: , , ,

2 thoughts on “A tale of two documents

  1. Alexander Hanff

    Hey Aiddy thanks so much for your analysis of this for me, much appreciated.

    It does beg the question, why was the original letter replaced with a blank page.

    Regards,

    Alexander Hanff
    Privacy International.

  2. aiddy Post author

    Usually it’ll be one of three reasons: conspiracy; (lack of) competence; or (lots of) complexity.

    In my experience it’s more often than not the third — things are hard in big organisations and sometimes that complexity results in weirdness.

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