Are There Best Practices for Redacting Documents?

Are There Best Practices for Redacting Documents?
September 25, 2020 | By Ben Liu

In some industries, preparing documents for sharing with others requires more than simply attaching the file to an email and pressing send. In some cases, there could be sensitive or confidential information contained in documents that you cannot expose to others. This occurrence is typical in the legal profession, where lawyers must frequently turn over troves of documents during discovery. Protecting confidentiality and removing irrelevant, privileged information requires redaction of the offending material.

The redaction process might not be as simple as it looks if the number of high-profile mishaps is any indication. There are numerous best practices to consider when it comes to redacting documents, and with tools such as Kofax Power PDF, they're easy to implement. Here's what to keep in mind.

Don't Redact Originals

It is essential to ensure that you always save an additional copy of the document you want to redact. When carried out properly, redaction should eliminate the information you wish to protect. As a result, if you redact your original, you run some serious risks. Before you begin the process, save an additional copy into a working folder while leaving your original copy in its secure original location. Once you've done so, you may begin the process of identifying and redacting the information you cannot share with others.

Avoid Simple Fixes

In a rush to turn some documents over, your team "redacts" an array of documents — by changing font colors or otherwise trying to obscure the information. These efforts are all in vain, though, as it's a trivial matter for a savvy user to undo all of these superficial fixes. Unless a redaction eliminates the sensitive data, your recipient might recover it. Consider converting your document into a PDF format so you can use redaction tools directly on the document. Even if your recipient converts the file back to a Word document after the fact, they won't find anything hidden underneath the redactions. Avoid taking paths that look "easier" but indeed represent security risks.

Graphic Redactions Aren't Truly Hidden

Using drawing and markup tools is one of the most common errors others make when redacting documents. The thinking is easy enough to understand. Were you to redact a document by hand; you might use a thick permanent marker or liquid paper to obscure the offending information physically. Why shouldn't you be able to do the same thing on a computer by using a PDF editor simply to draw black boxes over the information?

Doing so is as good as doing nothing — your recipient could easily remove these boxes and find the information sitting underneath them. Don't rely on graphical corrections to make redactions when you could instead use Power PDF's built-in tools to remove data quickly and securely. Test the resulting document yourself to verify its security.

Beware of Metadata

So you've used Power PDF's redaction tools, and you have a good copy of the document that's ready for sharing — right? If you haven't taken the time to remove other attributes of the document, you might still expose sensitive information to an unauthorized third party. Metadata encompasses several facts associated with the file. With document inspection functions, Power PDF lets you view and eliminate this metadata to ensure you create a flawless copy of the information. You may also want to search for any comments inserted by users of other programs into the file and remove them as well. By looking at the entire document and its attributes, you can carry out thorough and reliable redaction work.

Use a Solution That Offers Complete Redaction

Ultimately, you must be sure you can "burn in" your redactions so that the intended recipients cannot reveal the information no matter what they try. With Power PDF's built-in redaction tools, it is a trivial task to sort through even very long documents to apply redactions. With a powerful search function that lets users quickly find all instances of an offending phrase before applying redactions, legal teams and others can work with confidence in the security of the documents they produce.

Next time you need to redact documents, make sure that you not only have the right tools in hand but that you follow these best practices for the right results.

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