What is redaction and why is it necessary for document security?

From government departments to legal firms, banks and commercial enterprises, ensuring that confidential information is not viewed by the wrong people is essential, but can be a long and laborious process. What's more, the digital age has increased the number of documents that organisations deal with many-fold, while also increasing the chances for them to spread beyond their original circle of intent. Fortunately electronic redaction can help ensure your processes for dealing with these challenges are fast and effective.
Female lawyer preparing for a case in a library in front of a laptop using a redaction tool to remove sensitive information from her documents.

For businesses and professionals, it’s often necessary to share a document or group of documents which may contain confidential or sensitive information. For example, you may be a doctor presenting data and information on your work to a conference of your peers, yet you will, of course, need to remove any identifiable patient data or names. Many other professionals meanwhile have much cause for wishing to obscure confidential information when sharing documents, for example, lawyers sharing details of a case amongst different sides of the legal argument.

To obscure the information manually would mean a long and laborious process of going through the document (or, more often than not, many documents) to find each word, phrase or record that needs to be removed by hand. But what busy professional or organisation has time for that? And yet it is something which absolutely must be done in these situations to ensure that critical confidential data is not exposed, and in many cases, that no data privacy or security laws are breached. Fortunately, there is a much easier and more effective way of removing sensitive information from a document – redaction software.

What is redaction?

    The term redaction simply means to obscure a portion of text for security reasons or to fulfil legal requirements. Today, this is typically done digitally by covering the text up with a black rectangle or similar, but this, of course, must be done in such a way so as this rectangle cannot be removed and the original text uncovered.

    Why is redaction essential for document security?

      As recent events have shown, the worlds of politics, espionage and national security can also be shaken by information which hasn’t been properly redacted for public consumption. When the FBI presented documents to the White House recently alleging a secret Russian dossier containing scandalous information pertaining to then President-elect Donald Trump, all copies were supposed to have had sensitive information – the names of the sources in Russia that provided the information – obscured. But one unredacted copy managed to slip through the net and was leaked to the press and then published it in its uncensored entirety on BuzzFeed, potentially putting the safety of these previously hidden sources at risk.

      Redaction in most cases doesn’t have such drama or cold-war espionage novel overtones, but for many businesses getting it right can still be of vital importance.

      PDF redaction tools

        Fortunately, redaction software tools like those offered by Nuance’s Power PDF will enable you to redact PDFs and other documents quickly and securely. With redaction software, you can specify the information that you need to remove in a number of ways.

        Power PDF enables you to simply highlight multiple pieces of text or data to be redacted, specify the appearance of the redaction marks, and then when you’re done you can simply apply the redaction to permanently and irrevocably remove this information. Of course, if you’re dealing with an extensive document or multiple documents, as is likely to be the case, manually redacting all necessary information could be highly time consuming, and leaves a lot of room for human error.

        PDF redaction using Nuance’s solution allows you to automate the process of producing redacted documents by searching the document for a particular word or phrase or multiple phrases, ensuring that you catch every instance of the information to be redacted. Even more usefully in many cases, with Power PDF you can use the ‘looks like search pattern’ function to specify a certain type of data to find and redact, such as phone numbers or credit card numbers.

        Even using these methods, if you’ve got a large batch of PDFs to work through, such as complex legal documents, the process could be very time-consuming. But a redaction tool can be used to redact multiple documents at one time, considerably streamlining the process.

        While the digital age has brought with it many new security and confidentiality threats, it has fortunately also produced some elegant solutions for bolstering document security for all organisations. And whether you’re a law firm, a health practitioner, or even a national intelligence agency, you’re highly advised to use the powerful redaction tools at your disposal.

        Take a closer look at Power PDF to examine its redaction capabilities and other features closer.


        Avoid critical human error

        If you work in legal, healthcare, or governmental industries, don’t make the same mistake as Trump and use Power PDF for intelligent redaction software that you can rely on.

        Learn more

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