Sarah Olsen, APAC Client Services Manager and all-round PDF professional, explains.
Redacting documents digitally is proving more complicated than with paper. Where a black box drawn with a permanent marker would once get the job done, specialist software is needed to redact sensitive information in the digital age. High profile redaction blunders at major organizations like the New York Times and the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) have made headlines in recent years. So, why do so many continue to get redaction wrong?
The first and perhaps most obvious question to ask is “do we have redaction software?” If no, then you need to get it. If you do have redaction software, the next question to ask is “how does it handle different PDF types?” The difference between poor handling and proper handling of PDF types could be the difference between data protection or a PR disaster.
Masking is not redacting
PDF documents are created in layers – text is on a separate layer to images, for example. Using a redaction tool that only masks the text or image isn’t a foolproof method of redaction since it’s only adding another layer to the document. The layer can be peeled back to reveal what is underneath and potentially expose sensitive information. Your redaction tool should ‘burn out’ or completely remove the information from the PDF document – not just mask it.
Not every PDF is made the same
The underlying structure of a PDF should be considered when redacting. Depending on how the PDF was generated – a Word document converted to PDF, or a scanned document output as a PDF, for example – there may be multiple layers of information that need redacting. But, it isn’t always obvious what type of PDF you are working with, which is why you need a redaction tool that can redact any and every PDF type.
Handling all PDF types
A redaction tool should be able to completely remove information from a document no matter the PDF type. When a user redacts a section of text or image, it should be removed from the document permanently. This ensures no information is inadvertently leaked.
In addition to all-round PDF handling, a redaction tool should have the following functionality so users can work efficiently:
- Search for and redact multiple instances of a single word, phrase or pattern
- Use exemption codes to explain the redaction
- Review marked text ahead of final redaction
- Redact a page or range of pages
- Protect the original from being overwritten
Want to learn more about the redaction tool included in pdfDocs, our PDF editing software? Learn more or try it for free.
About the author
Sarah Olsen is a Client Services Manager based in our Sydney office. Sarah works with users every day to help them get more out of the products they rely on. When she isn’t fielding calls, Sarah can be found taking a dip at Manly Beach or keeping fit on the netball court.