Electronic Discovery: What is Redaction?

What is Redaction?

The wikipedia definition of redaction is: “In the study of literature, redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined together (redacted) and subjected to minor alteration to make them into a single work. Often this is a method of collecting together a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and coherent work

However, in Electronic Discovery the term is used slightly different, and simply refers to the blanking out of data in a document, the equivalent of putting a black marker pen over a section of a document.

Why is Redaction Used?

If a lawyer is reviewing a document, and it is responsive/relevant so needs to provide it to the other side, but it contains some confidential information, e.g a personal account number or  a sentence which is confidential, the lawyer can “redact ” this text by blacking out the relevant information. This is not done to the original document, only the copy provided the other side.

How is redaction conducted?

The redaction, assuming the work is conducted on a “review platform” (e.g Relativity, RingTail, iConnect) is normally done by the lawyer on a TIFF or PDF of the document.

Most review tools give the ability to highlight or black out text on a TIFF or PDF of original document. Note: This is conducted on the TIFF or PDF of the original, NOT the original.

Problems with Redaction

Redacting documents has several technical hurdles; firstly the document must be produced a TIFF or a PDF, before the reviewer can redact the document.

Secondly, the reviewer must be careful to redact the text on similar/duplicate documents, because redaction of one document would not normally result in the redaction of another, even if they are identical. Though there are tools to assist with redaction

Thirdly, when producing documents the company hosting the data HAS to know redaction has to be conducted,  prior to production/exchange of documents. When documents are exchanged  a load file (similar to the LIST), and associated files are exchanged. The associated files in the exchange will normally include TIFFs or PDFs of the original document, and possibly the text that has been extracted from the original documents.  It is the “text” files, that  poses a problem if there is any redaction.

The reason for this is that the text files are obtained, by default, from the original document not the TIFF.  Therefore any text that has been redacted in the TIFF/PDF will be included in the text files, and therefore searchable.

For this reason caution must be advised in the production of redacted document, and your technical consultant asked about how this will be handled; most platforms and vendors have solutions for this (the simplest is not providing the text files).

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4 Responses to “Electronic Discovery: What is Redaction?”

  1. Electronic Discovery: RedactIT « Data - Where is it? Says:

    […] Data – Where is it? Where is your data? Who collects, controls, and searches it? « Electronic Discovery: What is Redaction? […]

  2. Forensics: What jobs are there in IT forensics? « Data – Where is it? Says:

    […] searching, clustering, automatic redaction, near de-duplication, keyword searching audio files and language recognition, these are just some […]

  3. Electronic Discovery: Early Case Assessment v Review Platforms « Where is Your Data? Says:

    […] platforms are no doubt working on producing a more detailed review platform, introducing tiffing, redaction, etc. The ECA campy are, almost certainly, going to move into the linear review market space sooner […]


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