Many people trust their PDF software to redact their sensitive documents, experts have proven that this is not effective 100% of the time. People who deal with redaction often encounter errors with PDF editors that claim to include foolproof redaction features. Among the most common redaction errors is unredacted metadata. Metadata is data embedded in the document that can reveal details about its origin, the parties involved in its creation and even its original contents. In order to do foolproof redaction, you therefore need to use a tool that is specifically designed for this task.
Why redaction is necessary
Redacting personal client data gives them a reason to trust you enough to keep doing business with you. Beyond that, it also protects your business reputation. We hear about too many redaction fails in the news, and it’s always messy. Even tech giants like Uber and Google aren’t impervious to privacy leaks.
In most cases, protecting sensitive client information is more than just a nice thing to do for your clients. On the contrary, it’s usually a legal obligation. For this reason, a privacy leak can do more than damage your reputation and send your clients running. In addition to a damaged reputation and lost clients, you could find yourself facing a privacy lawsuit. In most cases, a lawsuit of this kind can really eat into your earnings. In fact, there are many cases where lawsuits have completely devastated growing businesses.
The benefits of redaction for reputation building
Redaction can save your reputation, but most people only realize the importance of properly redacting documents when it’s too late. Think of the Manafort court case that we heard so much about in 2016, when he was accused of colluding with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election. When a journalist discovered that Manafort’s lawyers had not redacted the documents they submitted properly, all the journalist had to do was copy-paste the content into a new document. The result was the revelation of records that Manafort had indeed been engaging Russian intelligence, despite claims from his lawyers to the contrary.
There are several other cases of redaction fails that have landed public figures and even huge organizations like Facebook in trouble.
Let’s talk about a few more of these redaction fails, shall we?
Redaction fails that have made the headlines
Six4Three Lawsuit against Facebook
In 2018, Six4Three, the company that devised tools to help people search for bikini photos among their Facebook contacts, filed a lawsuit against Facebook. Among the documents that Facebook submitted as part of their defense was one poorly redacted PDF file. Rather than use redaction software, employees at Facebook had simply blacked out the confidential information.
All it took was a reporter at ArsTechnica discovering the mistake and copy-pasting the contents of the document into a new document. The result? Details that revealed Facebook’s tentative plans to sell user data to companies for as much as $250,000. While Facebook claims they didn’t follow through with these plans, the discovery still led the world to question their credibility and their commitment to user confidentiality.
New South Wales Medical Council leak
In 2016, the staff at New South Wales Medical Council published a poorly redacted document that contained sensitive case information linked to a doctor and her son. Where did they go wrong? You guessed it – they placed black boxes over the confidential information. Unfortunately, while placing boxes over personal information might obscure that information from human eyes, hiding information from search engines is a totally different thing. When you place boxes over specific areas of text in a document, search engines can still read this information. As the staff at New South Wales Medical Council found out, Google can then link the people mentioned in your document to your document. And, even if you call Google in tears, it takes months to get rid of this information once it’s been indexed.
New York Times blows the whistle on NSA
In 2014, New York Times published documents sent to them by Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA). These documents revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was harvesting personal user data from the apps on people’s phones. However, the poorly redacted documents went beyond simply blowing the whistle on the CIA. These documents had details concerning the CIA program, the name of the NSA agent who had created the document, and one of the targets of the program. While these details were originally redacted, members of the public got around these redactions using the good old copy-pasting technique.
These examples might seem so far off, and we wouldn’t blame you for thinking that surely, we must’ve learned how to redact documents properly by now. However, you would be wrong for thinking so. Huge organizations are still making the headlines for redaction fails. For example, you might have heard how, just last year, the EU accidentally published a poorly redacted AstraZeneca COVID-vaccine contract with the information that had been redacted still visible in the bookmarks bar. This was despite a clause in the contract clearly stating that this information must be kept confidential.
All the above cases of redaction gone wrong resulted in legal implications for the people in charge of redaction. Keep in mind that these are all established organizations yet, in several cases, dealing with the consequences was devastating – we’re looking at you, Facebook. Leaking private information can easily result in you getting slapped with a breach of confidentiality lawsuit. The consequences of this kind of mistake go beyond the financial implications of a legal battle, which could bankrupt you. Leaking confidential information can easily result in the public questioning the credibility of your organization. And a tarnished brand image can be close to impossible to come back from.
How to redact your documents properly
If you want to do your redaction well, the best solution is to use software that’s designed for redaction. With software that is built specifically for redaction, you can avoid the human errors described above. However, some redaction tools have been known to fail, so it’s important to choose the right software for the job.
Redactable founder and CEO – Amanda Levay – can attest to the importance of choosing a reliable redaction software to help manage your confidential documents. In her previous role as a loan consultant, dealing with confidential documents was an everyday part of life. Thanks to her work, she realized the shortcomings of manual redaction before it was too late.
“I was constantly emailing confidential documents such as client tax returns, social security numbers and client account information,” Amanda says. “I was also receiving appraisal and inspection reports from lenders. I always found myself unable to hide the confidential data I wanted. There were times when I thought that putting a white box over my text would hide the sensitive information. I soon found out, along with many others, that this didn’t work. I was well aware that these were not the kind of mistakes that you wanted to make in finance. Convinced there was a better way to redact confidential documents, I developed Redactable.”
What is Redactable?
Redactable is a cloud-based, AI-driven platform built to redact confidential documents. This redaction software leverages AI/ML technology to auto-detect confidential information in a document and redact it permanently. By delivering secure redaction, document scrubbing and collaboration tools, Redactable is the gold standard in redaction software.
Since Redactable is a web-based application, it is designed to be easy to use. You don’t need to download and install any software on your computer before you use it. Likewise, you don’t need to install any plugins.
Given that the software uses document scrubbing to get rid of the metadata, you can rest assured that no one can hack or reverse your redactions. In other words, with Redactable, your organization won’t turn into a cautionary tale of yet another redaction gone wrong.
The future of Redactable
Redactable is launching with 900k in pre-seed funding raised to deliver this software to professionals in different industries across the world. With support from renowned VCs like The Fund, Hustle Fund, Revelry and Stony Lonesome Group, the future at Redactable is bright.
Would you like to try Redactable out? Luckily, you can enjoy a free 7-day trial before you commit to a subscription. You can also connect with the Redactable team on LinkedIn and Twitter for regular updates.