Redaction is one of those functions of which, mercifully, we hear little these days – or so I thought till this week. I wrote about it in 2008 after a calamitous .PDF redaction failure in the US. Redaction was then (and still is for some) largely a manual process involving two stages Mark for Redaction and Apply Redactions, and it was easy to forget the second stage (I know – I had to do it, though only once. I don’t think I missed any, but, in those days, how would you tell?).
if you missed the second stage, the redactions were reversible, and the underlying text could be read and recovered from the OCR text. Spreadsheets raised what were then almost insuperable difficulties.
Since then, the technology has improved, staff have been trained properly, and QA procedures are much better designed to pick up mistakes. The stakes are even higher now than they used to be, as privacy and data protection pushes itself to onto every discovery agenda. This week has brought us some new technology from Relativity to address the problem, and two embarrassing failures from people who ought to know better.
The positive story from Relativity involves enhancements to Relativity’s redaction processes, in the form of RelativityOne Redact, launched at Legalweek(year). That will add Milyli’s Blackout to RelativityOne, offering automated image and native redactions embedded into Aero UI and available as a standard feature in March for all RelativityOne customers at no cost.
The purpose is to cut the time and costs out of reviews and reduce the risk associated with human error.
Redaction error bring red faces to EU vaccine dispute
The context is too complicated to describe, but there was some amusement to be had from the EU’s release of an agreement with AstraZeneca as part of political jostling over vaccination. Parts of the document were, as is usual, redacted for reasons of IP protection and commercial sensitivity. The PDF bookmarks, however, provided quick links to the unredacted text, as observers quickly found. They should have been removed before the document was circulated.
There is no excuse for this by this stage. That said, one has to feel sorry for the (probably junior) person who let this through and the (slightly less junior) person whose job was to pick up such mistakes. Also, spare a thought for AZ, who were entitled to think that justifiably secret terms would stay private.
Subject access request reveals more than it should
More personal implications arose from a redaction failure by London Borough of Lambeth, reported here by Gordon Exall – see Ineffective redaction in disclosed documents” a warning to all litigators and(and local authorities). The documents related to a child and were provided in redacted form to the father pursuant to a subject access request “without realising that anyone reasonably proficient in the use of Adobe would be able to defeat the redaction and restore the original text.”
That is not a failure of the technology. We are back, I would guess, to that failure to do the second stage of the redaction process that I wrote about in 2008. I wrote about it not because I discovered anything new, but because it was then common knowledge.
Do yourselves a favour, and get some technology which makes this easy.