Properly redact information at IU

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When redacting information from a document, keep in mind these two fundamentals: remove visible information, and remove hidden data.

The information in this document does not constitute legal advice.

Redact a paper document

To redact information from a paper document:

  1. Before scanning a document (use either of the following methods):
  2. After completely cutting out or covering the text to be redacted, copy or scan the document, making sure no un-redacted sensitive personal information is visible; use the resulting copy or image.

Redact an Adobe Acrobat PDF

To redact information from a PDF:

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Turn off JavaScript.
  3. Open a copy of the original document in Adobe Acrobat.
  4. Mark the sensitive information for redaction; for instructions, see Search and remove text (Acrobat Pro DC).
  5. Apply redactions.
  6. Remove hidden information; for instructions, see Find and remove hidden content.
  7. Save the file.
    If you save the file as an optimized PDF, you can control settings such as image resolution reduction, font embedding, and so on.
  8. Delete the un-redacted version unless it is necessary to retain it for business or legal purposes.

For details, see Removing sensitive content from PDFs in Adobe Acrobat DC.

Redact a Microsoft Word document

To redact information from a Word document:

  1. Create a copy of the document, and work from the copy.
  2. Turn off reviewing features (that is, track changes).
  3. Use search and replace to remove all visible sensitive information.
  4. Double-check to verify that all visible sensitive information has been removed.
  5. Inspect the document to find hidden data; for instructions, see Remove hidden data and personal information by inspecting documents, presentations, or workbooks.
  6. To remove any unnecessary hidden sensitive data, click Remove All.
  7. Save the file.
  8. If you wish, print the document to a PDF file.

Alternatively, you can redact a Word document using the Notepad method.

Redact information using Notepad

  1. Open the file in a word processor.
  2. To remove the visible data from your file, run a find and replace search on all the text to be redacted; replace each occurrence of matching text with the text string text-redacted.
  3. To remove all hidden data, copy all the text and paste it into Notepad.
  4. Save the Notepad file as the redacted version.
  5. Close the Notepad (redacted) version of the file.
  6. Open the redacted version of the file in a word processor to make any needed formatting changes.

Insufficient redaction methods

Do not use the following methods to redact information from documents, as they are insufficient:

  • Changing text color: Changing the redacted text's font color to match the document's background color leaves the redacted text easily discoverable to anyone who clicks and drags over the area using a mouse.
  • Covering or highlighting text: Covering redacted text with images or comments, or highlighting text with a matching color, leaves the redacted text discoverable.
  • Deleting only visible data: Digital files retain embedded and hidden metadata containing revision history and other information. Metadata can reveal anything that was contained in the file at any time, even text that was previously deleted or changed, and even if the file was re-saved. Metadata can be useful for tracking revisions, but if it is not purged from the document, anyone can view deleted information, even after the document has been converted to PDF format.
  • Black marker: A hard copy of a document redacted with black marker may still provide enough image detail to enable someone to see what was assumed hidden; this method is especially risky if that same data repeats multiple times across a document.

Learn more

For more about redacting information from documents, see Protecting Data & Privacy and the Critical Data Guide. You may also find redaction guidelines or instructions at United States District Court: Southern District of Alabama.

This is document adgl in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2021-09-20 16:42:52.