The following is an excerpt from “The ultimate guide to redaction: What works, what doesn’t,” an industry guide published in the wake of recent high-profile redaction errors and designed to help everyone get redaction right.
A decade ago, the term ‘redacted’ would not have been widely used or understood unless you worked in the legal profession or had been involved in a court case.
Searches on Google for ‘redacted’ and other similar terms have spiked since 2005, a trend that is likely to increase given a) the growing number of reported data breaches caused by improper or poor redaction technique and b) the growing body of government legislation aimed at protecting people’s personal information.
The Duhaime Legal dictionary explains redaction as follows;
Redaction is generally justified for reasons of privilege. Although relevant documents have to be disclosed between litigants, some documents, in whole or in part, may contain references, parts or elements which are not subject to disclosure. An example might be a long, relevant document which has a few paragraphs that contain a summary of legal advice protected by the client-attorney privilege, jeopardize state security or reveal the identity of a state informer. If practicable, the document should be disclosed but “redacted for privilege,” with the confidential portion blacked-out or whited-out or otherwise removed. Generally, the Courts prefer a party to redact segments of a document for privilege, as opposed to the complete nondisclosure of a document, as it fosters full disclosure.
The courts are also mandating the redaction of personal information in court filings.
Attorneys now have an obligation to redact many sorts of confidential information before submitting documents to courts, including social security numbers, financial account numbers, names of minors, dates of birth, home addresses, and other sensitive information.
Recent redaction fiascos
Over the past 10 years, we have seen spectacular redaction fiascos exposing national security secrets, business deals, and everything in between. And no one appears to be immune.
The following individuals, businesses, and government departments all accidentally disclosed information they thought had been safely redacted.
- Paul Manafort’s lawyers,
- the British Ministry of Defence,
- UK Department of Transport,
- US Transportation Security Administration,
- The New York Times, and
- Rob Blagojevich (former Illinois governor).
Even though redaction software is widely available, you have to ask, “why is it so many people continue to get redaction so wrong?”
Fill out the form to continue reading the guide and learn more about recent data leaks that have happened because of improper redaction.