DOJ gaffe a reminder to all to redact with care

Published on August 30, 2013 by kerryc
Another redaction gaffe makes headline news -- this time it's the Department of Justice. The DOJ failed to redact certain key information from a court filing, which identified Google as the previously unnamed Internet company fighting the U.S. government to release law enforcement requests for data. In the case of the DOJ, it failed to redact every instance of the word Google in the document. It should be noted that most software packages offering redaction have some sort of find and redact capability, ie find every instance of a word or strings of words in a document and redact. So we are dusting off an article we published at the time of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) redaction gaffe as a reminder of the importance of having redaction software and knowing how to use it. We are also providing a link to our Redaction Whitepaper, which discusses how you can safely redact sensitive information from PDF documents.

Redaction in the digital age

Redacting documents in the digital age is proving more complicated than it needs to be. So, why do so many get it so wrong? The first and perhaps most obvious question to ask is “do you have redaction software at your firm?” If the answer is no, then you need to get it. The same is true of metadata management software. Law firms cannot afford to expose themselves and their clients to unnecessary risk. If you do have redaction software, the next question to ask is “how does it handle different PDF types?”

Masking is not redacting

PDF documents are constructed in layers—for example, text is on one layer and images on another. Thus, using a redaction tool that simply masks the text or image is not a foolproof method of redaction as you are simply adding another layer to the document, which can be peeled back to reveal what’s underneath. You need a redaction tool that completely "burns out" or removes the text or image from the PDF document.

Not all PDFs are made the same

To add another layer of complexity to the redaction problem, you need to consider the underlying structure of the PDF. Depending on how the PDF was generated—ie a Word document converted to PDF, or a scanned document output as a PDF—there may be more than one layer of information that needs to be redacted. Problem: it isn’t always obvious what type of PDF you have…

Redact no matter what the PDF type

pdfDocs provides firms with a safe and secure method of redacting business-critical documents no matter what the PDF type. It completely “burns out” the text or area of the document and can handle all PDF types. In addition, pdfDocs lets you:
  • Remove text and graphic images from the document permanently
  • Search for and redact multiple instances of a word or string of words
  • Use exemption codes to explain the redaction
  • Edit the redacted area
  • Redact a page or range of pages
  • Protect the original from being overwritten
  • Remove metadata from the PDF document
Request a complimentary copy of our redaction whitepaper PDF Redaction: what every business should know  to learn more about the dangers of redaction.