Document Redaction: Why, When and How to Block Sensitive Information

The process of redacting information while leaving the remainder of the document intact is known as redaction. This is done by blocking out specific content in a document that contains secret or proprietary information that should not be shared with the intended recipient or the wider public. Official secrecy, legal privilege, and professional confidentiality rules can limit information dissemination in general or to specific groups of people.

The most prevalent cause for redaction in the context of data privacy is when responding to a subject access request under Article 15 of the GDPR law. While determining whether data should be shared, it is critical to exercise caution when producing documents to be released to avoid the inappropriate exposure of any other individual’s personal information. It is normal for documents and records to mention or refer to more than one identifiable live person, whether in electronic or paper form. As a result, it may be required to redact documents and records to avoid mistakenly disclosing the personal information of another person.

Whether the document or record being redacted is electronic or paper, the following general rules should be followed.

  • Always work on a copy of the document: This should go without saying. Redaction, by definition, entails the altering of records and the concealment of information. Working with a duplicate will also make any mistakes you make easy to fix, and you don’t want to take chances with data that could be needed in the future.
  • Understand the document and redaction requirements: Before correctly identifying all personal data in a document or record, you must first comprehend its purpose, structure, and terminology. This is simple for many types of documents. However, being unfamiliar with privacy terminology could make it difficult to correctly redact complex reports.
  • Maintain and store records: A checklist of redactions to be completed will aid in avoiding errors or omissions. A redacted version of a document must be kept with a detailed record of what was redacted, why, and the date it was created and submitted. This will also help resolve any redaction issues.

Redacting Paper Documents

There are various methods for redacting information from a hard-copy document copy:

Physically cutting out information

It is possible to cut out parts of a document containing confidential information with scissors. However, this isn’t always simple nor convenient, but it is unquestionably effective at permanently erasing data.

Covering with tape

Black or white adhesive tape that is fully opaque can provide total coverage of text. Once the tape is applied, a copy of the document is made for release to the recipient.

Omit information by hand

If you scratch over letters with a ballpoint pen, the text beneath will often remain fully or partially legible. To cover text, use white correction fluid or a black marking pen with sufficient width. Because the redacted content may still be legible when brought up to the light, the document should be photocopied before being submitted.

Redacting Digital Documents

The first step is to identify and locate all material that has to be redacted.

Caution relying on search functions

Although search features are useful for locating certain terms or names in documents, they have significant limits. Tables of contents, references, photographs, and images aren’t necessarily scanned with an automated search. It is also important to note that using a search function will also not detect misspellings of names or personal information.

Hidden information

Digitally produced documents contain far more information than is at first visible. Spreadsheets, databases, and word processors offer a feature to hide parts of a file’s contents. Hidden columns, tables, and worksheets can be found in spreadsheets and databases, whereas revision histories, authors, editors, editing mark-ups, comments, and document properties can also be found.


Some file formats can contain detailed information generated by the application that created them, operating systems, or other sources, similar to file properties. Email metadata can provide the time and date of creation, the sender’s email and IP address, and the path used to reach them. Image metadata can also record the username of who took the photo, the date and time, location, and camera settings.

Work from printouts and leverage plain formats

It is sometimes easier to verify and cross-check material that should not be released by using physical printouts of electronic files or documents. After you’ve identified all of the parts that shouldn’t be shared, you’re ready to start redacting. The advantage of exporting a document to be redacted into a CSV or plain text format is that hidden content such as secret tables, cross-references, or various sorts of metadata can be stripped out. As a result, redaction will be easier, and you’ll have more assurance that all relevant material has been evaluated.

Avoid highlighting or changing font colors

While it could make parts of the document unreadable on screen or when printed, the text content does not change, so when copied and pasted into a text editor, any formatting applied is removed. The text may then be legible or recoverable even if the edited material is exported or electronically ‘printed’ to a new format, such as a PDF document. The simplest approach to redact text is to replace it with [REDACTED] or symbols. 

How KRIS Can Help

KRIS Document Management System (DMS) ensures the security of all your company documents while offer features to streamline your redaction process. Scan in paper documents for digital storage and editing, customize workflows to send documents to assigned personnel responsible for redacting documents, and maintain redacted versions in a central repository. Every record is controlled with permissions to safeguard document integrity, access, and distribution. Checklists can be maintained and retrieved at a moment’s notice to aid personnel in effectively redacting documents.






Find out how a Document Management System can simplify your everyday office processes.