Hello, bonjour, ciao!
It's been an interesting few weeks in British politics, but whatever the rights and wrongs of the government’s decision to ‘redact’ or black out the details of MPs expenses online, it once again highlights the ongoing need for organisations to publish original documents electronically without exposing sensitive information.
The government appears to have got it right this time, and I never thought I'd be typing that sentence! By converting everything into images and redacting before converting to PDFs there's no way of undoing what's done. However, my issue with that is that it reduces the usability of documents as they're not searchable. But history has thrown up several examples of organisations that have accidentally revealed confidential details with serious repercussions – from a legal settlement paid by Facebook to the exposure of US military secrets and CIA operations.
These high profile incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, organisations in the UK redact sensitive information on documents and share them with third parties. Avoiding the pitfalls is easy when armed with the right knowledge.
Judging from the feedback I get at seminars, understanding of redaction tools and techniques among knowledge workers is increasing, but mistakes are still made. Basic redaction errors can be easily avoided. One of the most common mistakes made is to assume that placing a black rectangle over information will fully remove it. When, in fact, only a redaction tool (yup, there's a great one in Acrobat) will do the job properly.
Also, always remember that there are hiding places in PDF and Word documents where comments or metadata may lurk. There are tools, such as the Examine Document tool in Acrobat, that will automatically look for that hidden information so you can remove it.
So look, your information is only as safe as the measures you take to protect it. It’s worth taking a little time to explore the redaction tools available in your document management tools to make sure that you're not caught out..... remember....
- Simply putting black or white rectangles over information doesn't remove it, cutting and pasting from the document will reveal the hidden information, I do this in demos all the time!
- The only way to properly remove or hide sensitive information is by using the specific redaction tools in Acrobat and other document tools
- Advanced redaction tools like pattern redaction or batch redaction can be used to quickly redact large documents or multiple documents
- The Examine Document tool in Acrobat is a way to detect and remove information that might not be readily visible, like metadata and comments.
- Be sure to save the redacted document as a different file to ensure that your redactions are completed... Once you've redacted a document properly, it can't be undone, so make that redacted copy first!